Jury Begins Deliberating In Ex-Ecuador Official’s Bribery Trial

By Carolina Bolado        

Law360, Miami (April 22, 2024, 9:23 PM EDT)  — Jurors began deliberating Monday afternoon in Florida federal court on the fate of the former comptroller of Ecuador, who prosecutors say took millions of dollars in bribes and directed his son, a banker in Miami, to launder the money.

In closing arguments in Miami, prosecutor Jill Simon told the jury that “all of the evidence tells the same story” about Carlos Ramón Pólit Faggioni, who is accused of laundering cash he received in bribes from Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht SA and a reinsurance broker when he was Ecuador’s comptroller.

“His position required him to protect public funds, to audit and review how companies and public officials used public funds,” Simon said. “Instead of just doing his job, the defendant abused his position of tremendous power.”

Simon said Pólit promised Odebrecht executives that he would make $100 million in fines on a defective hydroelectric plant, known as the San Francisco project, go away if he were paid $6 million. Odebrecht would send the bribes in cash, and Pólit’s son John Pólit “made the cash disappear,” Simon said.

She detailed Pólit’s “extensive efforts” to conceal the money laundering by keeping his name off of company documents and property ownership records. Simon said even if Pólit was not involved in every aspect of the transactions, he can be held liable because the actions were done at his direction.

“He doesn’t have to personally take every single act charged,” she said. “He doesn’t need to be the one who signed the checks or made the wire transfer. He caused his son to make the money disappear. He intentionally participated.”

Jackie Perczek of Black Srebnick PA, who represents Pólit, said that the government and its witnesses throughout the trial have made up stories to prejudice jurors against her client. The notion that the $100 million in fines were dismissed because Pólit was paid $6 million in bribes is “patently false,” she said.

She pointed to a document from the Ecuadoran government showing that at least some of the fines were removed after Odebrecht made repairs at the hydroelectric plant. The U.S. Department of Justice translated just the first couple of pages and the last section of the document, leaving jurors without the technical information about how the repairs were made, she said.

“Imagine that you buy a book,” Perczek said. “And you read the first chapter. And nobody lets you read the rest of the book, and you’re only allowed to read the last chapter. I bet if we all had the same book we could each come up with a different story of what happened in the middle of that book. You never get the facts if all you’re given is the beginning and the end, but that’s what the government did to you with these resolutions.”

She pointed to Carlos Pareja, an attorney in Ecuador, as the recipient of the Odebrecht bribes, not Pólit, because of two payments that were made to Draniston Ltd., with which he was affiliated, with the code name “Miami.” The former director of Odebrecht’s operations in Ecuador testified that “Miami” was the code name used when the company was sending bribes to Pólit and could not explain why some payments labeled “Miami” went to Pareja’s company.

Perczek said Pólit is not connected to Draniston.

Howard Srebnick of Black Srebnick, who also represents Pólit, told jurors that no witness took the stand or provided evidence that Pólit ran the affairs of his son in Miami, a son who had worked at three major banks and was a sought-after financial adviser.

“John Pólit didn’t need his father to tell him how to handle John Pólit’s financial affairs,” Srebnick said.

John Pólit has not been charged with any crimes.

Prosecutors say the bribe money was routed from Odebrecht to several holding accounts in Panama before making its way to a company named Venture Overseas that was registered in the name of John Pólit’s father-in-law, but that the son controlled the company.

Pólit, who fled to the U.S. in 2018 and has not returned to Ecuador, was sentenced in absentia in December 2020 to six years in prison in Ecuador and ordered to pay $40 million in reparations.

The U.S. is represented by Alexander J. Kramer and Jill Simon of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit and Michael N. Berger of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Polit is represented by Howard M. Srebnick and Jacqueline Perczek of Black Srebnick PA and Fernando L. Tamayo of Coffey Burlington.

The case is U.S. v. Carlos Ramon Pólit Faggioni, case number 1:22-cr-20114, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

–Editing by Brian Baresch.