- By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
FSM president’s son-in-law arrested in bribery case
Transportation official charged with
money laundering in Hawaii Court
A ranking official of the Federated States of Micronesia has been arrested in Honolulu after being charged with money laundering in connection with a bribery case against the Hawaiian businessman Frank James Lyon who retained U.S.-funded FSM engineering contracts worth $7.8 million.
Master Halbert, the son-in-law of FSM President Peter Christian and son of FSM Sen. Dohsis Halbert, was arrested over the weekend.
Halbert, 44, the assistant secretary of Civil Aviation under FSM Department of Transportation Communications and Infrastructure (TCI) in charge of FSM's aviation programs and airport management, is accused of receiving bribes from Lyon in exchange for securing engineering and project management contracts for Lyon Associates Engineering Company.
“In furtherance of, and to promote, the corrupt agreement, Lyon withdrew thousands of dollars in cash from his personal bank account in the District of Hawaii on numerous occasions in order to pay cash bribes to Halbert in the District of Hawaii, FSM and elsewhere, and Lyon and Halbert transported and delivered the cash bribes from the District of Hawaii to the FSM,” reads the complaint filed on Jan. 24 by FBI Special Agent Aryn Nohara.
Besides the undetermined amount of cash, Halbert allegedly received a pickup truck, a trip to Las Vegas, and tuition at UH Manoa.
The District Court of Hawaii unsealed the documents on Feb. 12.
Halbert is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi on Feb. 13 for his pretrial detention hearing and a preliminary hearing on Feb. 22. He was charged in the District of Hawaii with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
FSM public information officer Richard Clark said the Office of the President will release a statement on Thursday.
Nohara’s court affidavit includes excerpts from Halbert’s March 21, 2016 email to Lyon, which reads: “You don't think people in the government questions why I have a long-term contract with Lyon? You don't understand how hard I work from my side to protect you and your contract."
On March 31, 2016, Halbert sent another email to Lyon stating, “I'm helping you already and you paying me in some ways when I ask. I'm effective this way, right?”
In yet another email to Lyon sent on April 19, 2016, Halbert wrote, “So I will start getting paid by the government under my contract in two weeks and I might get hired on permanently in one month. I want to return the whole amount of my checks and every one of them until my restitution is fully paid off. Can you put me on your payroll so I have some money every month? Let me know your thought. "
Online documents show Lyon Associates employees occupying nine of the 11 positions in the TC&I Program Management Unit.
Lyon, 53, pleaded guilty on Jan. 22 to charges of “conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” and federal program fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 13.
The complaint alleged that between 2006 and 2016, Lyon paid FSM officials, including Halbert, approximately $200,000 to obtain and retain contracts with the FSM government.
The identities of other FSM officials allegedly involved in the bribery remain under seal.
In January, the FSM government asked the U.S. Department of Justice to share information about the bribery case with its local counterpart. “This news is as disturbing to the FSM government as it is to the citizenry of the nation, and the allegations are being taken seriously by the administration,” reads a statement from the FSM Information Service. “The FSM national government is committed to transparency, and to fair and equal treatment under the law, and will take all appropriate legal measures required in this active, and on-going criminal case.”
According to Hawaii Free Press, the PMU was previously managed by GMP Hawaii, Inc, a company owned by Wagdy Guirgui, who was convicted of tax evasion in Honolulu Federal Court in November 2018.
The Hawaii Free Press also reported that Halbert was tried in FSM court in 2014 for falsifying his academic record from the University of Washington in order to award himself a $173,614.56 “professional premium” taken from FSM and FAA projects.
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