The owner of a business seeking a contract at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has pleaded guilty to bribing a city of Atlanta official to secure the contract.
In a May 1 news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced Hayat Choudhary, 58, of Lilburn, CEO of Atlanta Airport Shuttle 金殿国际棋牌 Inc., doing business as Meskerem Restaurant, has pleaded guilty to bribery for paying $20,000 in cash to an Atlanta Department of Procurement official to secure a contract at the airport. This case may be tied to an ongoing larger federal corruption investigation into the city.
“Pay-to-play bribery schemes cause citizens to lose trust in the integrity of the contracting process,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in the release. “Public corruption involving government officials is reprehensible. Our office remains committed to eliminating corruption in government at all levels, and we want to thank the city of Atlanta for its cooperation in this investigation.”
In the release, Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta field office, said, “Choudhary tried to buy his way around a process that is meant to be fair to all contract applicants. His actions erode the public's trust in government and that's why the FBI and our law enforcement partners are determined to prosecute those who would undermine the integrity of how contracts are awarded.”
According to Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: the Atlanta airport is the principal airport for Georgia and the Southeastern. In 2017, Atlanta’s airport – the busiest passenger airport in the world at the time – generated more than $500 million in revenue for the city of Atlanta, including about $8.8 million in fees and charges from private ground transportation companies (such as taxicabs, limousines, ridesharing and hotel and parking lot shuttles). One such company was Atlanta Airport Shuttle 金殿国际棋牌/Meskerem Restaurant.
The department of procurement was responsible for acquiring all services for Atlanta’s airport. Its guiding principles commit its personnel to “award contracts that are consistent with the policy, regulations, rules and laws” and “without regard for personal gain.”
On or about May 2, 2017, the department of procurement announced the city sought to enter a contract for a vendor to establish and operate a kitchen/restaurant at the ground transportation building at the airport. The kitchen/restaurant would serve the large and growing number of taxi, limousine and rideshare drivers who provided transportation services to passengers traveling to and from Atlanta’s airport.
The department of procurement projected that the kitchen/restaurant would generate annual revenue of $200,000 and result in rent payments to the city of $13,000 per year. The city offered a 10-year term for the kitchen/restaurant contract, with a three-year renewal option. Choudhary’s company was one of the bidders for the contract.
“Official-1” was the department of procurement official responsible for overseeing the bidding process and, thus, influenced the awarding of the kitchen/restaurant contract. After the contract was announced, Choudhary paid a $10,000 bribe to Official-1 to obtain the contract. After the first bribe payment, Official-1 instructed Choudhary he had to pay another $10,000 to receive the contract. Choudhary paid the second $10,000 bribe. Following Choudhary’s payment of $20,000 to Official-1, the city of Atlanta awarded the contract to Choudhary’s company.
Based on his conduct, Choudhary was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, conspiracy to commit bribery.