IRAQ: U.S. Contractor Bloom Pleads Guilty

Contractor pleads guilty to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering in connection with a bid-rigging of Iraq reconstruction contracts.
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April 18 -- Philip Bloom, a U.S. businessman,
pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering in
connection with a bid-rigging investigation of Iraq
reconstruction contracts.

The Justice Department unsealed the March 10 plea agreement
today in federal court in Washington. Bloom admitted paying a
former comptroller for the disbanded Coalition Provisional
Authority and other officials more than $2 million in money and
gifts to win $8.6 million in contracts.

The case arose from audits and an investigation by Special
Inspector General Stuart Bowen, whose office was established by
Congress in late 2003 to oversee the spending of almost $30
billion in appropriated U.S. tax dollars. Robert Stein, a former
comptroller for the provisional authority, pleaded guilty in
February to taking part in the scheme. Two Army reservists have
also been charged.

``Philip Bloom admits offering millions in bribes so that he
and his companies could receive contracts for the vital task of
rebuilding Iraq,'' Alice Fisher, the head of the Justice
Department's Criminal Division, said in a statement. ``The
reconstruction effort in Iraq must be free from the taint of

The bid-rigging scheme took place between December 2003 and
December 2005, according to court papers. Bloom, according to
court papers filed in the case, gave contracting officials
business-class airline seats, new cars, watches, alcohol, cigars
and sexual favors provided by women at his villa in Baghdad.


In one e-mail included in court papers, an unnamed officials
asked Bloom for a GMC Yukon Denali sport utility vehicle with
``sandstone leather'' interior and all-wheel drive. The car ``is
loaded'' and ``has to meet California emissions'' standards, the
official wrote.

Another unidentified official requested a blue Nissan 350Z
sports car that cost $35,990. An employee trying to find the car
told Bloom in an e-mail it was a ``very desirable, hard-to-find
color'' and only two were available in the Western U.S.

Bloom's bids were for less than $500,000 -- the limit of
Stein's authority to award a contract, prosecutors said. The
contracts included demolition of a police academy, construction
of a ``democracy center'' and renovation of a library.

Bloom faces up to 40 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.
Under the plea agreement, he also must pay $3.6 million in
restitution and forfeit $3.6 million in assets to the U.S., the
Justice Department said.

Bloom has been in U.S. custody since his arrest in November.

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