Former BizJet CEO, of Tulsa, pleads guilty in international bribe scheme

Bernd Kowalewski, 57, the former CEO of BizJet International Sales and Support, pleaded guilty Thursday in Tulsa federal court to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
By Catherine Sweeney, Business Writer Published: July 25, 2014
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The former CEO of a Tulsa-based aircraft company pleaded guilty to participation in a scheme to bribe international officials.

Bernd Kowalewski, 57, the former CEO of BizJet International Sales and Support, pleaded guilty Thursday in Tulsa federal court to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

He is the third and most senior executive of the company to plead guilty to bribery, according to a release from the U.S. Justice Department.

Former Vice President of Finance Neal Uhl and former Vice President of Sales Peter DuBois pleaded guilty in January 2012.

Prosecutors claim the company offered bribes to officials in Mexico and Panama to get contracts for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services.

“While Kowalewski and his fellow executives referred to the corrupt payments as ‘commissions’ and ‘incentives,’ they were bribes, plain and simple,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell in the release.

The men paid the bribes directly to officials and also through a shell company, the agency said.

A shell company, Avionica International & Associates Inc., operated under the pretext of providing aircraft maintenance brokerage services. It really laundered money to the company’s bribery scheme, prosecutors said.

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