Smartmatic being investigated in US for bribery allegations in Philippines

Staff members prepare at a polling precinct during the national elections in Manila, Philippines, May 9, 2022. Smartmatic is being investigated in the United States for alleged corrupt business practices in the Philippines. (Photo: REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan)
Staff members prepare at a polling precinct during the national elections in Manila, Philippines, May 9, 2022. Smartmatic is being investigated in the United States for alleged corrupt business practices in the Philippines. (Photo: REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan)

The United States (US) Justice Department is investigating Smartmatic for its alleged engagement of corrupt business practices in the Philippines, US-based news outlet Semafor said in a report.

The inquiry was confirmed by a lawyer for Smartmatic, J. Erik Connolly.

“Companies working in the election industry always face scrutiny and inquiries,” he said in an email to Semafor.

“Smartmatic has cooperated with the authorities since learning about this inquiry and will continue to do so,” he added.

Connolly also stressed the scope of the investigation, which “has nothing to do with election security or integrity. We have been informed that it is on business in Asia and almost a decade ago by one of our subsidiaries there.”

The investigation was whether Smartmatic violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars US citizens and companies from paying bribes to foreign officials, two sources and a document connected to the case revealed to Semafor.

The investigation, which began in 2019 under former President Donald J. Trump, is focused on how the company was able to win the contract to administer the 2016 Philippine national elections, which allegedly included a payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Justice Department has also searched the house of at least one Smartmatic employee.

The investigation comes after then-losing vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. claimed he was robbed of the vice presidency because of Smartmatic and the Philippine's Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has dismissed the electoral protest of Marcos Jr., due to lack of merit.

Meanwhile, it also mentioned former COMELEC chairman Andres Bautista who, according to his estranged wife and several reports, received a “commission” from a law firm representing Smartmatic.

However, in a telephone interview with Semafor, he said that the “referral fee” he received had “nothing to do with Smartmatic,” and that contracts were also awarded for Smartmatic during the 2010 and 2013 elections.

“Any implication that I was ‘bribed’ to secure the contract is untrue because a) Smartmatic had been working with COMELEC years before I was appointed; b) Smartmatic was already the chosen provider for the 2016 elections when I joined and c) Smartmatic continued to be COMELEC’s technology partner for the 2019 and 2022 elections,” Bautista said.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates. The views expressed are his own.

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