2 accused of graft attempt
A federal grand jury has indicted an Irvine man and an associate for allegedly trying to bribe a U.S. Army contracting official with $1 million to win a road construction project in Afghanistan, the Justice Department said Thursday.
Rohullah Farooqi Lodin of Irvine and Hashmatullah Farooqi of New York City are each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit an offense against the United States and one count of attempting to bribe a public official.
The indictment, filed in federal court in Virginia, alleges that the men offered $1 million in bribes to an Army captain, who is not named in the court documents.
In exchange, the officer was to help disqualify lower bidders to build a road in Logar province and award the project to two general contracting firms in Afghanistan.
Lodin and Farooqi allegedly claimed to represent the companies, which each submitted $18-million bids for the work.
The road contract was to be paid for out of an account called the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which has been vulnerable to waste and fraud.
Under the program, U.S. military commanders are authorized to finance urgent, small-scale projects that improve conditions for the local population and create jobs. An additional goal is to generate a more positive attitude toward U.S. forces and thus reduce attacks against them. Yet oversight of the money has not always been tight, leading investigators to pay close attention to these projects.
Since 2004, the United States has committed $1.62 billion to the emergency response program in Afghanistan and $3.6 billion in Iraq.
According to the indictment, on at least four occasions in May, Lodin and Farooqi met with the Army captain, who was the public official responsible for managing the emergency program in Logar, which is south of Kabul.
Lodin and Farooqi allegedly said they had political connections and could arrange for the blacklisting of lower-priced bidders whose offers were ranked ahead of theirs. The indictment says Lodin and Farooqi discussed several options for paying the officer, including wiring him the $1 million through a bank account in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, or Bangkok, Thailand.
Lodin and Farooqi face maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and more than $500,000 in fines.
The investigation was handled by the FBI, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.