It seems somehow fitting this week in the midst of the Astros inexorable march back to the World Series that we honor the only baseball player across the globe simply known as “The Emperor”. He was, of course, Masaichi Kaneda the greatest pitcher in Japanese baseball. He won 400 games on the mound. In world rankings, he is second only to Cy Young, with 512 wins, and Walter Johnson with 417 in the American major leagues. According to his New York Times (NYT) obituary he “was the all-time leader in Japan in strikeouts, with 4,490, and innings pitched, with 5,526⅔. He won 20 or more games 14 consecutive seasons.”

He also had an unusual warmup routine on the field. He would walk “to the mound, dropped his glove, grabbed the rosin bag, tossed it a few times, dropped it and then picked up his glove. Then he walked to second base, where he threw the first of eight warm-up pitches to the catcher. After each throw, he moved a few steps closer to the mound, until by the eighth pitch he was standing on the pitching rubber.” I do not know if this was to get his arm finally tuned or simply to psyche out the opposition (or perhaps both) but it certainly worked for Kaneda.

This tales informs today’s blog post which is about the guilty plea which came literally on the eve of trial for Frank Roberto Chatburn Ripalda (Chatburn). He was one of two persons indicted in Miami for money-laundering and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations in connection with bribes paid to officials at the Ecuadorian national energy company EP Petroecuador. His co-defendant, Jose Larrea had previously pled guilty, leaving Chatburn to  face the music alone with a trial that had been slated to start this week. (Larrea’s plea agreement is here.) According the Department of Justice (DOJ) Press Release announcing the guilty plea, Chatburn, a dual US and Ecuadorian citizen, pled “guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a 20-year statutory maximum sentence.”

Chatburn is scheduled to be sentenced December 18, 2019. Based on Larrea’s Plea Agreement and sentence, Chatburn is looking at some serious time in Club Fed. According to the Stanford Law School, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Clearinghouse report on Larrea’s sentence, he received a sentence of 27 months and a monetary sanction of $53,888.

According to the Indictment, Chatburn and his co-conspirators “facilitated” bribe payments to Ecuadorian government officials to the tune of $3.2 million. For these corrupt payments, Chatburn’s client Galileo Energy S.A. (Galileo) received some $27.8 million in payments for contracts awarded to them. Chatburn acted as a financial advisor to Galileo. He agreed to make bribe payments to the then Petroecuador officials through the use of shell companies and bank accounts in the US, Panama, the Cayman Islands, Curacao and Switzerland. To fraudulently conceal these corrupt payments and to promote the scheme, Chatburn established Panamanian shell companies with Swiss bank accounts on behalf of two then Petroecuador officials.

Further, these payments were not the nickel and dime variety but some series money. The Indictment identified payments from $150,000 in 2015 to $620,000 in 2014 and $700,000 in 2013. All of these payments were alleged to be in violation of the FCPA.

However, at the plea hearing, Chatburn also admitted that he conspired with another Ecuadorian government official to conceal bribe payments intended for the official from Odebrecht S.A., the Brazilian construction conglomerate. Chatburn facilitated hiding these bribe payments by conducting the transactions through several shell companies and bank accounts in multiple jurisdictions, including in the US. Odebrecht pleaded guilty on Dec. 21, 2016, in the Eastern District of New York to conspiring to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA in connection with a broader scheme to pay nearly $800 million in bribes to public officials in twelve countries, including Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Mozambique, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

This leaves two outstanding Indictments involving individuals accused of corruption in dealings with Petroecuador. As reported by the FCPA Blog, in July a 11-count Indictment was handed down against “Armengol Alfonso Cevallos Diaz and Jose Melquiades Cisneros Alarcon. Both were charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and nine counts of money laundering. They allegedly helped pay and launder more than $4 million in bribes to officials at Empresa Pública de Hidrocarburos del Ecuador or PetroEcuador.” In July, there were four other defendants have pleaded guilty in the case. A former Petroecuador lawyer who took bribes, Marcelo Reyez Lopez, was sentenced in 2018 to 53 months in prison for a money laundering conspiracy around the same set of facts. Now there are five.

As for the Astros march back to the World Series, a friend emailed to ask me if I could ever remember a player winning a game with a defensive gem and offensive blast the likes of Carlos Correa last night. Correa fielded a ball which had bounced off Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and gunned down the streaking Yankee base runner DJ LeMahieu at home to save a run and end the 6th inning. (Check out the play here.) Of course, Correa hit the walk off homer to end the game in the 11th inning to send the ALCS back to New York tied 1-1. (You can see the walk off homer here.) I could not think of a single player in a game but I did recall Brooks Robinson dominating the 1970 World Series with a .429 batting average and .958 fielding percentage.

I love October.

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© Thomas R. Fox, 2019