Richard Bistrong

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Richard Bistrong is the former vice-president for international sales at Armor Holdings, which was acquired by the British company BAE in 2007. [1]

He was married to Nancy Soderberg from 2004-2008, who was the third ranking official on the National Security Council under President Clinton from 1993-1997, and served as US ambassador to the UN from 1997, up until January 2001. [2]

Bistrong was fired from Armor Holdings February 2007, for bribing foreign officials and accepting $1.3m in kickbacks from suppliers. [3] The accusations included paying bribes between 2001-2006, to secure contracts, worth a total of $6m, to supply law enforcement equipment to UN peace keeping forces as well as a $2.4m contract to supply pepper spray to police in the Netherlands and fingerprint ink pads for Nigeria’s elections. [4] [5] [6]

Bistrong was also accused of violating export control laws by shipping armored helmets and vests to the UAE for delivery to the Kurdish regional government in Iraq without a license. This was after Bistrong and his associate Jason Teal were denied a license to ship the equipment from the UK to Iraq. [7] [8]

When Bistrong came to the FBI’s attention in 2007, he was living in a 6,000-square foot mansion in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. By his own admission, despite appearances, his life was on a downward trajectory. He later testified in court proceedings brought against him that he had a “$15,000 a month cocaine habit, and routinely had sex with prostitutes”. [9]

2.FBi sting operation, january 2010

Faced with FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) charges, Bistrong co-operated with FBI agents in a sting operation, termed ‘the shot show showdown’. The case was the first undercover sting aimed at violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a law that bars the payment of bribes to win foreign business. [10]

The culmination of a two and half year investigation saw 22 people arrested, after all agreeing to pay substantial bribes in exchange for fictitious contracts worth $12m, to supply the presidential guard of Gabon. The ‘deal’ required a $1.5m kickback to be paid to Gabonese defense minister, Ali Bongo. 21 of the arrestees were caught by FBI agents, at a shooting and hunting trade show in Las Vegas. This included Bistrong’s former boss at Armor Holdings, Jonathan Spiller. [11]

Bistrong facilitated the operation by providing a character reference for the two undercover FBI agents posing as defense officials. [12]

When the case made it to trial, the defense repeatedly called in to question Bistrong’s character and asked the prosecution to hand over his tax returns, internal DOJ-FBI communications about his handling, as well as any export licenses he had been given by the federal government. His FBI handler acknowledged Bistrong’s use of drugs and prostitutes. [13] According to the Washington Post, Bistrong and FBI agents “joked about sex, booty calls, prostitutes, cigars, the Village People, the informant’s wives and an agent’s girlfriend.” The FBI failed to secure a single conviction from the sting operation, which in part has been attributed to the racy texts sent between them and Bistrong. [14]

After pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, Bistrong was sentenced to 18 months for his crimes, with the judge taking in to account Bistrong’s co-operation with law enforcement agencies. [15]

Bistrong is now the CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC, a consultancy helping companies understand anti-bribery compliance. In the story of ‘his journey’ on his personal website he says he “spent over a decade as an International Sales Vice-President, bribed foreign officials, covertly cooperated with international law enforcement “, he was aware that he was “engaging in illegal behaviour”, but thought he would be protected by his level of education and respectability. [16]