International industrial contracts are big business, so naturally the massive amounts of money involved can lend themselves to corruption.
KBR is a company based in America, which focuses on construction and engineering. They hired Unaoil to assist with obtaining contracts in Kazakhstan. In return, KBR paid Unaoil millions of dollars. However, as it turns out, Unaoil has been under investigation for huge bribery scandals, which does not reflect well on KBR. This is not KBR’s first run-in with corruption, as they had to pay $402 million for bribing Nigerian officials in another scandal.
Emails between KBR and Unaoil used code words to try and work around pending investigations. One read, “My feeling is that a good spaghetti house is where it is at of course a little shashlik for lunch is good to digest also.” Andy Spalding, a professor who specializes in foreign bribery laws explained, “If those emails were written after KBR was under investigation by the DOJ for prior violations, then the penalty will be far higher than it would be if this was a first-time violation. It doesn’t matter what they’re going to argue, because a third-party law firm is going to come in and read all these emails and interview all these employees and they’re going to detect really quickly that they’re not talking about food.”
For its part, KBR released a statement saying they are, “ . . . committed to conducting its business honestly, with integrity, and in compliance with all applicable laws. We do not tolerate illegal or unethical practices by our employees or others working on behalf of the Company.”