The former owner of a Bucks County financial consulting firm was charged Tuesday with paying about $3.5 million in bribes to a foreign banking official to receive favorable treatment for his clients, according to federal authorities.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Dmitrij Harder, 42, of Huntingdon Valley, attempted to conceal the payments to a Russian citizen he knew at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development by making five deposits into a bank account of the official's sister between 2007 and 2009.
In return, authorities said, the banking official - who is unnamed in the indictment - approved financing for two clients of Harder's former company, Chestnut Consulting Group Inc.: an $85 million equity investment and a loan of 90 million euros for a natural-gas development project in Russia, and a $40 million equity investment with a $60 million convertible loan for a separate gas development project at an unnamed location by a British oil and gas corporation.
Neither client is named in the indictment, but authorities said they paid Harder's firm "success fees" totaling $8 million for securing their funding.
Harder's attorney, Stephen LaCheen, said his client denies the charges.
When asked whether Harder had paid the bribes, LaCheen said: "Sometimes it takes evidence in a courtroom to decide what something is going to be called. Is it a bribe? Is it extortion? Is it willful?"
LaCheen added that he believed his client was being treated unfairly because larger corporations have avoided prosecution by paying large fines.
"The only crime my client is guilty of is not being a big-enough corporation to buy his way out," he said.
Harder was charged with one count of conspiracy, five counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, five counts of violating the Travel Act, and a number of related charges.
If convicted, Harder faces up to 190 years in prison and up to $1.75 million in fines, federal authorities said.