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FBI nicks 22 in classic bribery sting

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The FBI has arrested 22 people, including three Brits, in a classic bribery sting.

Investigators used a supposed African defence minister to lend credence to their claim to be looking for someone to sell them arms for a Presidential guard unit. As part of the deal, the accused allegedly agreed to a 20 per cent bung to be paid to the minister on top of the $15m cost of the weapons and kit.

In fact, the sales agent requesting the bribe was an undercover FBI agent. The suspects were told half the money would go straight to the minister, and the rest would be kept by the sales agent. The 22 accused created two separate invoices - one for the true price and one for the price plus the fraudulent 20 per cent commission.

The FBI, in true 419er style, even got them to engage in a small test deal in order to show the minister that he would indeed get his ten per cent cut.

21 of the accused were arrested in Las Vegas at a military hardware trade show and one man was arrested in Miami.

The three Brits arrested are: David R. Painter, 56, and Lee M. Wares, 43, the chairman and director of a United Kingdom company that markets armoured vehicles and Pankesh Patel, 43, the managing director of a United Kingdom company that acts as sales agent for weapons companies.

Some 150 FBI agents raided 14 addresses in the US and City of London Police executed 7 search warrants as part of their own investigation into the companies involved.

Tony Blair famously pulled the plug on a long-running Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery allegations against BAE in relation to deals done with Saudi Arabia, a decision described by the courts as "abject surrender".

This is the full list of the accused:

• Daniel Alvirez, 32, and Lee Allen Tolleson, 25, the president and director of acquisitions and logistics at a company in Bull Shoals, Ark., that manufactures and sells law enforcement and military equipment

• Helmie Ashiblie, 44, the vice president and founder of a company in Woodbridge, Va., that supplies tactical bags and other security-related articles for law enforcement agencies and governments worldwide

• Andrew Bigelow, 40, the managing partner and director of government programs for a Sarasota, Fla., company that sells machine guns, grenade launchers and other small arms and accessories

• R. Patrick Caldwell, 61, and Stephen Gerard Giordanella, 50, the current and former chief executive officers of a Sunrise, Fla., company that designs and manufactures concealable and tactical body armour

• Yochanan R. Cohen, aka Yochi Cohen, 47, the chief executive officer of a San Francisco company that manufactures security equipment, including body armour and ballistic plates

• Haim Geri, 50, the president of a North Miami Beach, Fla., company that serves as a sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries

• Amaro Goncalves, 49, the vice president of sales for a Springfield, Mass., company that designs and manufactures firearms, firearm safety/security products, rifles, firearms systems and accessories

• John Gregory Godsey, aka Greg Godsey, 37, and Mark Frederick Morales, 37, the owner and agent of a Decatur, Ga., company that sells ammunition and other law enforcement and military equipment

• Saul Mishkin, 38, the owner and chief executive officer of an Aventura, Fla., company that sells law enforcement and military equipment

• John M. Mushriqui, 28, and Jeana Mushriqui, 30, the director of international development and general counsel/U.S. manager of an Upper Darby, Penn., company that manufactures and exports bulletproof vests and other law enforcement and military equipment

• David R. Painter, 56, and Lee M. Wares, 43, the chairman and director of a United Kingdom company that markets armoured vehicles

• Pankesh Patel, 43, the managing director of a United Kingdom company that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries

• Ofer Paz, 50, the president and chief executive officer of an Israeli company that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries

• Jonathan M. Spiller, 58, the owner and president of a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., company that markets and sells law enforcement and military equipment

• Israel Weisler, aka Wayne Weisler, 63, and Michael Sacks, 66, owners and co-chief executive officers of a Stearns, Ky., company that designs, manufactures and sells armour products, including body armour

• John Benson Wier III, 46, the president of a St. Petersburg, Fla., company that sells tactical and ballistic equipment

All the accused face charges of breaking the Foreign Corrupt Practises Act, conspiracy and money laundering charges. The conspiracy and FCPA charges carry maximum sentences of five years each, the money laundering charges a maximum of 20 years. ®

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