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Producers found guilty in Thai film festival bribery case

September 14, 2009 |  1:17 pm

RescueBale In a big win for the federal government that could open Hollywood up to more investigations regarding overseas business, producers Gerald and Patricia Green were found guilty late Friday on charges of bribery and money laundering related to their running of a local film festival in Thailand.

The married couple were found guilty of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, eight violations of the FCPA and seven acts of money laundering. In addition, Patricia Green was found guilty of two counts of falsely subscribing a U.S. tax return.

The U.S. attorney dropped one money laundering count before the jury began deliberations last week. In addition, the jury was unable to reach a decision on an obstruction of justice charge against Gerald Green, which has since been dropped.

The trial lasted two and a half weeks and jury deliberations took one day.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Gerald Green, 77, and his wife Patricia, 52, could each face upwards of 10 years in prison, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Bruce H. Searby, who prosecuted the case.

According to the government, the Greens paid bribes of $1.8 million to former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan in order to secure contracts to run the Bangkok International Film Festival, as well as two others related to tourism. The contracts they secured were worth more than $13.5 million to businesses owned by the Greens, the government said.

"There were a series of different projects and opportunities for the governor and the Greens to make a lot of money," Searby told The Times. "They would build in the Greens’ profit and bribes to the governor into the contracts."

The Greens worked on the festival in 2003 and operated it from 2004 through 2006. Through connections made in that process, Gerald Green served as an executive producer on the 2006 film "Rescue Dawn," which was shot in Thailand (photo above).

The government secured its first series of indictments against the couple in 2007.

Attorneys for Gerald and Patricia Green both said they were disappointed by the verdict and are preparing to appeal.

"To me it’s a case of circumstantial evidence," said Marilyn Bednarski, who represented Patricia Green. She added that "the people of Thailand were not victimized in any way" because the Greens provided "top notch services" for the festival.

Searby strongly disagreed, however. "There is no more concrete type of harm to the Thai people than taking money out of their treasury and sending it on a round trip through L.A. back to a government official," he said.

Jerome Mooney, who represented Gerald Green, said he thought the case was pursued in part as a warning by the government to the entertainment industry about how it works with foreign countries as production increasingly takes place around the world.

Extra spending to keep local officials happy isn't that unusual when films are made overseas. A 2007 Times analysis of the budget of the film "Sahara," for instance, revealed that $237,386 was spent on "courtesy payments," "gratuities" and "local bribes."

"We understand the government taking a shot across the bow of Hollywood," Mooney said. "We just wish the shell hadn't landed on our clients' boat."

Sentencing is set for Dec. 17. The couple is currently free on bond.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Christian Bale in "Rescue Dawn." Credit: Lena Herzog / MGM