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Lawyer Israel Gencher told the court that his client, Nazir Karigar, should not be made a scapegoat for Canada’s previous failures to address bribery of foreign officials. (Chris Rousskais For The Globe and Mail)
Lawyer Israel Gencher told the court that his client, Nazir Karigar, should not be made a scapegoat for Canada’s previous failures to address bribery of foreign officials. (Chris Rousskais For The Globe and Mail)

Defendant in trail-blazing bribery case should not face prison, lawyer argues Add to ...

Defence lawyers for a former high-tech executive convicted of trying to bribe government officials in India are asking for a conditional sentence, saying their client’s reputation has already suffered a great deal and he should not face jail time.

Nazir Karigar was found guilty last fall for his role in a plot to bribe Indian officials, including an Indian aviation minister, in order to secure a contract to provide facial recognition technology to state-owned Air India. Last week, a prosecutor asked for a four-year prison term for Mr. Karigar, arguing the sentence would help dissuade others from similar attempts to bribe foreign officials.

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On Monday, defence lawyer Israel Gencher told an Ottawa court that he agrees that the judge should consider the principles of denunciation and deterrence in determining an appropriate sentence. However, he argued that circumstances cited by the prosecution during its submissions, including the number of people who may have been drawn into the conspiracy, should not be considered aggravating factors in Mr. Karigar’s case.

Mr. Gencher said the case has already damaged Mr. Karigar's reputation a great deal and had a negative impact on his family. Mr. Karigar's health and livelihood have also suffered, he said. At the same time, he noted that Mr. Karigar was co-operative throughout the investigation and the trial and that he is near the end of his career.

In 2005, Mr. Karigar approached the Ottawa office of CryptoMetrics with an offer to help them secure a contract to supply Air India with a security system using the company’s facial-recognition technology. He later became executive director of the company’s Indian subsidiary, and introduced members of the firm to several high-ranking officials at Air India.

Prosecutors were unable to show during the trial that money actually exchanged hands, and CryptoMetrics was never awarded the contract. However, Justice Charles Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that there was enough evidence to show that Mr. Karigar and others at CryptoMetrics intended to make the payments.

For example, Mr. Karigar admitted in a statement to the RCMP that he had provided the information found in financial spreadsheets listing Air India officials who would be paid bribes and the amount of money and company shares that would be offered to them.

Because Mr. Karigar is the first individual to be convicted under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, there are no similar Canadian cases that provide a precedent for sentencing. Three companies have been convicted under the Act during the past decade, but all pleaded guilty and paid a fine.

Mr. Gencher argued that, unlike those companies, his client was never in a position to pay a large fine, and the sentence should be proportional to Mr. Karigar’s means.

The defence lawyer also rejected the notion that criticisms of Canada’s handling of foreign bribery cases should be considered when determining Mr. Karigar’s sentence. Mr. Gencher said he doesn’t know whether Canada has been lax in investigating or prosecuting other cases, but if it has been, he argued Mr. Karigar should not be made a “scapegoat” for past failures.

At the time Mr. Karigar was convicted, the maximum sentence under Canada’s foreign bribery law was five years. It was later increased to 14 years, but the new sentencing range cannot be applied retroactively to Mr. Karigar’s case.

Follow on Twitter: @kimmackrael

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