Sidharth Handa, Former
Army Reserve Captain Sentenced to Prison for Soliciting $1.3M in Bribes
and Conspiring to Traffic Heroin
October 8, 2011
A former captain in the U.S. Army
Reserve stationed in Afghanistan was sentenced today to 120 months in
prison for soliciting $1.3 million in bribes from contractors involved
in U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts and participating in a conspiracy
to traffic heroin from Southeast Asia.
Sidharth Handa, 32, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Anthony J.
Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia. Handa was also ordered to
pay $315,000 in restitution. Handa, of Charlotte, N.C., pleaded guilty
on June 21, 2011, to soliciting and accepting bribes while serving as a
public official and to conspiring to distribute a kilogram of heroin.
“Mr. Handa used his official position assisting the United States’
reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan to line his pockets,” said
Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “He promised multi-million dollar
contracts to Afghan businessmen in exchange for cash. He was so
meticulous about collecting his bribes that he kept track of them on a
spreadsheet. We will not tolerate this kind of fraud and abuse. Today’s
sentence reflects the disgracefulness of Mr. Handa’s conduct.”
“This case is the largest bribery prosecution to date from our mission
in Afghanistan,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “From the day he stepped
foot in Afghanistan, Mr. Handa negotiated a staggering amount of bribes
from contractors in a blatant breach of the trust our military put in
him. His actions brought shame to our mission, harmed our reconstruction
efforts, and defrauded American taxpayers who funded the contracts he
According to court records, Handa was stationed in Afghanistan from
March through November 2008 and served as the liaison to the local
governor and engineers on the Kunar Province Reconstruction Team (PRT).
In that position, Handa assisted in awarding reconstruction project
contracts funded by the U.S. government to local contractors through a
competitive bidding process. Handa admitted that almost immediately upon
his arrival in Afghanistan, he became engaged in a scheme to secure
bribes from contractors who sought to secure large PRT construction
projects. With the help of an Afghan interpreter, Handa typically
solicited bribes equal to 10 percent of the overall contract value,
though the actual bribe payment was negotiated based on the contractor’s
ability to pay. The total value of bribes contractors agreed to pay
amounted to $1,323,000, and Handa and the interpreter collected
$315,000, which they split evenly.
Handa admitted that after leaving Afghanistan, he tried to collect over
$1 million in bribe money that contractors had pledged to pay. A
cooperating witness (CW) offered to help Handa collect the money, and
through 2010 and early 2011 Handa provided the CW with details of
outstanding bribes and other relevant facts to help secure the promised
bribes. During the course of these conversations with the CW, Handa
indicated that he knew people in the drug business and he and the CW
developed plans to sell kilogram quantities of Southeast Asian heroin to
Handa’s drug contacts.
to court documents, on April 7, 2011, Handa met with the CW and an
undercover officer in a northern Virginia hotel, where Handa received
what he believed was $500,000 in collected bribe payments and
acknowledged that he knew the right people to receive the kilogram of
heroin the undercover officer showed him. Law enforcement arrested Handa
as he was leaving the hotel with the bribe money, a loaded handgun and a
spreadsheet detailing specific bribe amounts paid and outstanding.
This case was investigated jointly by member agencies of the
International Contract Corruption Task Force, including the Special
Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the FBI’s Washington
Field Office and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and also by
the Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is being prosecuted by
Senor Trial Attorney David Bybee of the Criminal Division’s Fraud
Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kosta Stojilkovic and Dennis
Fitzpatrick of the Eastern District of Virginia.