Ex-Calif Exec Pleads Guilty In $1 Million Bribery

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A former valve company executive who
arranged $1 million in bribes to officials in China, India and
other countries pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal conspiracy
charge, prosecutors said.

Mario Covino, 44, of Irvine, entered the plea in federal court to a single count of conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He agreed to cooperate with a federal investigation and could face up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in July, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.

The statement said Covino also acknowledged that he deleted e-mails and provided false and misleading responses in an effort to block a 2004 internal company audit.

There was no telephone listing for Covino in Irvine.

A number of companies with worldwide operations have been charged in recent years with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it unlawful to bribe foreign government officials or company executives to obtain or retain business.

Covino, an Italian citizen, was director of worldwide factory sales for an Orange County-based company that designed and made valves used worldwide in the oil, gas, nuclear, coal, power plant and other industries, the U.S. attorney's office said, without identifying the company by name.

Prosecutors said Covino acknowledged that he got company employees and agents to pay about $1 million to foreign officials from March 2003 through August 2007. Covino said the valve company
reaped about $5 million in profits from the resulting deals, prosecutors said.

The bribes were made to officials of government-owned energy
companies in China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Malaysia and the
United Arab Emirates. They included such entities as Brazil's
Petrobras, China Petroleum, Petronas in Malaysia and the
Maharashtra State Electricity Board in India, prosecutors said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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