Charges filed against executive for bribing Russian nuclear company prior to approval of Uranium One deal

Friday a Maryland businessman allegedly involved in an attempt to bribe Russian officials in the Uranium business was charged with 11-counts of fraud and bribery. Reuters reports:

U.S. prosecutors unsealed money laundering, foreign bribery and wire fraud charges against Mark Lambert, 54, in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Friday…

The charges are the latest chapter in a sprawling federal investigation into corruption involved in Russia’s sale of uranium into the United States.

The uranium investigation drew increased public attention last year after an informant involved in the probe claimed to have evidence tying the former Obama Administration to Russian influence peddling, a charge former administration officials have denied.

A DOJ press release offers some of the details of what Lambert allegedly did, including the code words he used as part of the fraud:

According to the indictment, beginning at least as early as 2009 and continuing until October 2014, Lambert conspired with others at “Transportation Corporation A” to make corrupt and fraudulent bribery and kickback payments to offshore bank accounts associated with shell companies, at the direction of, and for the benefit of, a Russian official, Vadim Mikerin, in order to secure improper business advantages and obtain and retain business with TENEX….Lambert and others allegedly caused fake invoices to be prepared, purportedly from TENEX to Transportation Corporation A, that described services that were never provided, and then Lambert and others caused Transportation Corporation A to wire the corrupt payments for those purported services to shell companies in Latvia, Cyprus and Switzerland.  Lambert and others also allegedly used code words like “lucky figures,” “LF,” “lucky numbers,” and “cake” to describe the payments in emails to the Russian official at his personal email account.

The connection to the Uranium One deal involves a few steps but I’ll try to break it down as simply as possible. First, Tenex, the company Lambert has been indicted for allegedly trying to bribe, was the commercial face of Russia’s nuclear giant Rosatom. Back in 2010, Rosatom completed the purchase of Uranium One after approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment, which included then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But the Clinton connection is much deeper. Uranium One owned uranium mining rights within the United States, but its most valuable asset was a mining rights agreement in Kazakhstan which it got when it purchased UrAsia Energy Ltd. for $3.1 billion in 2007. UrAsia signed a memorandum of understanding granting the company those mining rights on Sep. 8, 2005, one day after UrAsia founder Frank Giustra left the country on his private jet with former President Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton claims he was just there to push his work on the AIDS crisis, but while he was in Kazakhstan Clinton also praised President Nazarbayev who was up for reelection just a few months later.

I created a timeline of events in the Uranium One deal here. One of the key questions that has been raised is why the Committee on Foreign Investment approved the Uranium One deal, which gave a Russian company significant uranium mining rights in the U.S., despite evidence that Russia was involved in bribery and kickback schemes a full year before the deal was approved. According to an undercover informant involved in gathering information for the FBI, he confronted his FBI handlers about why the Uranium One deal was approved and was told it was political.

Uranium One was a large enough concern for the informant that he confronted one of his FBI handlers after learning CFIUS had approved the sale and that the U.S. had given Mikerin a work visa despite the extensive evidence of his criminal activity, source said.

The agent responded back to the informant with a comment suggesting “politics” was involved, the source familiar with Campbell’s planned testimony said.

You can read more about that here.