James Giffen

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James Henry Giffen was born in 1941 in Stockton, California.[1] He grew up to be an American businessman and an authority on American-Soviet trade.[2] He is the founder and chairman of Mercator Corporation.[3] He was the prime suspect accused in the $80 million Kazakhgate bribery scandal, which was at one time the largest US investigation ever into an overseas bribery case; but which went nowhere.[4][5]

Giffen has had ties to the USSR dating back to the 1970s. After graduating from college, he worked for a subsidiary of Armco Steel, developing a relationship with Armco boss and future US commerce secretary C. William Verity, Jr.[6] During the Cold War, Giffen was instrumental in setting up the multi-company American Trade Consortium (including large corporations such as RJR Nabisco, Chevron, Eastman Kodak, Johnson & Johnson and Archer Daniels Midland) to negotiate entry into the Soviet market with representatives of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.[7]

Kazakhgate trial[edit]

In the Kazakhgate trial, Giffen asserted that he was acting with the approval of the CIA, which refused to release secret papers relating to this activities.[8] His defense said Giffen had merely been following orders from the Kazakh government, which as a foreign state had the right to define legality according to its own views, and serving the interests of the United States.[9]

Giffen eventually pleaded guilty to a tax misdemeanor and paid $25; the other charges, which could have carried a penalty of several decades in prison, were dropped.[8] The case concluded in November 2010; U.S. District Judge William Pauley, who said he had been able to refer to classified documents that had not been made public in the trial, ordered neither prison time nor a fine for Giffen.[9]


  1. ^ Steve LeVine, The Oil and the Glory, Random House, 2007
  2. ^ Claudia H. Deutsch, Taking a team approach to Soviet Trade, The New York Times, July 31, 1988
  3. ^ Steve LeVine, The Oil and the Glory, Random House, 2007
  4. ^ Terry Macalister, "Swiss join oil bribery inquiry", The Guardian, May 7, 2003.
  5. ^ "No Punishment for 'Hero' Giffen | the FCPA Blog". 22 November 2010.
  6. ^ Ron Stodghill, "Oil, Cash and Corruption", The New York Times, November 5, 2006.
  7. ^ Louis Kraar, "Top US Companies Move Into Russia", Fortune, July 31, 1989
  8. ^ a b "George Clooney film inspiration 'Mr Kazakhstan' finally brought to justice".
  9. ^ a b "Was James Giffen telling the truth?".