November 15, 2021

Federal court dismisses FCPA and MLCA charges against Swiss defendant for lack of jurisdiction

On November 10, 2021, the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed all charges brought by the Department of Justice against Daisy Teresa Rafoi-Bleuler, a Swiss asset manager accused of laundering funds on behalf of individuals who allegedly engaged in a bribery scheme involving Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), a Venezuelan state-owned oil company.  The court held that it lacked jurisdiction over the Money Laundering Control Act (MLCA) and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) charges brought against Rafoi-Bleuler.

According to the indictment, Rafoi-Bleuler and another codefendant assisted several individuals with laundering the proceeds of their bribery schemes in connection with PDVSA contracts.  Rafoi-Bleuler was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to violate the FCPA anti-bribery provisions, and money laundering.   

As an initial matter, the DOJ argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear Rafoi-Bleuler’s motion to dismiss because of her status as a fugitive.  Although the court agreed that Rafoi-Bleuler was a fugitive, it held it nonetheless had the option to hear the case.

In terms of the defendant’s motion to dismiss, Rafoi-Bleuler argued that because the indictment did not allege any conduct by her within the US, the FCPA would only apply to her conduct if she were acting as an officer, director, employee, or agent of a domestic concern.  The DOJ argued that she acted as an agent of a domestic concern, but the court disagreed, finding the DOJ had not alleged sufficient facts to establish an agency relationship.  The court further held that inasmuch as the FCPA only covers certain, specified individuals, this jurisdictional requirement could not be circumvented by charging conspiracy.  The court dismissed the money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering counts because the DOJ did not allege either that the defendant was a U.S. citizen or that conduct in furtherance of the scheme had occurred in the U.S.  The court therefore dismissed all counts against the defendant for lack of jurisdiction.

SDTX Memorandum Opinion and Order | Superseding Indictment