Australian Contractor Admits Accepting Payment for Steering Deals in Afghan Reconstruction Projects

    Local men work at a construction site for new shops in Helmand, Afghanistan. A former construction manager in the country has pleaded guilty to seeking and receiving payments for steering U.S.-financed projects in favor of local firms and contractors. Photo by: isafmedia / CC BY

    A former construction manager who worked as an agent for the International Organization for Migration in Afghanistan has pleaded guilty to seeking and receiving payments for steering U.S.-financed projects in favor of local Afghan firms and contractors.

    Neil Campbell, who is originally from Australia, admitted before a U.S. district court that he solicited a one-time payment of $190,000 from an Afghan subcontractor as reward for channeling more than $15 million worth of IOM reconstruction projects, including the construction of a school and a hospital, to the said local company.

    The projects were funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has provided some $260 million to the IOM since 2002 for the construction of schools, hospitals and other facilities in Afghanistan.

    Campbell is set to be sentenced on Dec. 14, 2011. He was initially facing up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine but his plea deal with the U.S. government guarantees he would only serve a maximum sentence of 27 months and pay only up to $50,000 in fines, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Campbell has also agreed to repay the $10,000 he received from an undercover USAID investigator who posed as representative of the Afghan subcontractor as part of the sting operation that eventually led to Campbell’s arrest.

    U.S. officials have touted Campbell’s arrest and his admission as a display of the U.S. government’s “seriousness” in protecting the money it spends on overseas projects.

    “We will continue to deploy investigative resources around the world to ensure that criminals who exploit our generosity are held accountable in an American courtroom,” U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. of the District of Columbia said in a statement.

    Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director James McJunkin added: “Today’s plea is a reminder that taking fraudulent payments and misrepresenting U.S. interests has its consequences.”

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      Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.