DOJ intervenes, files complaint in whistleblower's case against KBR, two foreign companies

by Ben Vernia | January 23rd, 2014

On January 23, the Department of Justice announced that it had filed a complaint in intervention in a qui tam suit against Kellogg, Brown & Root and two other companies arising from Army logistics contracts for the Iraq war. According to DOJ’s press release:

The government has filed a complaint against Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc. (KBR) and Kuwaiti companies La Nouvelle General Trading & Contracting Co. (La Nouvelle) and First Kuwaiti Trading Co. (First Kuwaiti) for submitting false claims in connection with KBR’s contract with the Army to provide logistical support in Iraq, the Department of Justice announced. KBR is an engineering, construction and services firm headquartered in Houston, Texas. Kuwait-based La Nouvelle and First Kuwaiti provided transportation, maintenance and other services in support of KBR’s contract with the Army.

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Allegedly, KBR made claims to the government, knowing them to be false, under a contract with the Army to provide wartime logistical support, known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III. The award of LOGCAP III paved the way for the company to become a critical source for logistical support services in Iraq, which included transportation, maintenance, food, shelter and facilities management. KBR performed many of these services through subcontracts awarded to foreign companies local to the region, such as La Nouvelle and First Kuwaiti.

In its complaint, filed in federal court in Rock Island, Ill., the government alleged that, in 2003 and 2004, KBR employees took kickbacks from La Nouvelle and First Kuwaiti in connection with the award and oversight of subcontracts awarded to these companies. KBR then claimed reimbursement from the government for costs it incurred under the subcontracts that allegedly were inflated, excessive or for goods and services that were grossly deficient or not provided. For example, KBR allegedly awarded La Nouvelle a subcontract to supply fuel tankers for more than three times the tankers’ value. La Nouvelle later rewarded the KBR employee who awarded the subcontract with a $1 million bank draft. As another example, KBR allegedly continued to make monthly lease payments to First Kuwaiti for trucks KBR had already returned to the subcontractor. KBR billed the government for the costs of both of these subcontracts. The lawsuit also alleges that KBR used refrigerated trailers to transport ice for consumption by the troops that had previously been used as temporary morgues without first sanitizing them.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Rock Island has convicted 10 companies and individuals in connection with wartime contracts in Iraq. The convictions include three KBR subcontract managers who admitted taking kickbacks or making false statements in connection with the allegations made in the government’s complaint. Anthony J. Martin pleaded guilty in 2007 to taking kickbacks in return for awarding First Kuwaiti subcontracts for trucks and trailers and also admitted including the amount of the kickbacks in the price of the subcontracts. In 2005, Jeff Alex Mazon pleaded guilty to making a false written statement in connection with a subcontract for fuel tankers awarded to La Nouvelle in 2003. And in 2006, Stephen Lowell Seamans admitted taking kickbacks from La Nouvelle, during a guilty plea to a kickback arrangement with another subcontractor, Saudi Arabia-based Tamimi Global Co. Ltd. (Tamimi). The government previously entered into criminal and civil agreements with Tamimi in which Tamimi paid the U.S. government $13 million, including $7.4 million for civil claims and $5.6 million in criminal fines, to resolve its liability for the kickbacks.

The government is suing KBR, La Nouvelle and First Kuwaiti under the False Claims Act, as well as the Anti-Kickback Act.

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