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Elections firm suing Fox News linked to Philippine bribe charges

AFP . Washington
23 Sep 2023 18:50:13 | Update: 23 Sep 2023 18:52:07
Elections firm suing Fox News linked to Philippine bribe charges

A voting machine company currently suing Fox News for defamation has been implicated in an alleged Philippine bribery scheme, CNN reported Friday.

The US Justice Department has filed money-laundering charges against Andres Bautista, a former election administrator in the Philippines, in a case involving four executives from subsidiaries of Smartmatic, according to court documents cited by CNN.

Bautista had awarded Smartmatic a $199 million contract to supply the Philippines with 94,000 voting machines for the 2016 presidential election won by Rodrigo Duterte.

The executives, who have not been identified, are implicated as uncharged co-conspirators and are alleged to have "caused or attempted" to transfer $4 million to Bautista "in violation of US money laundering laws," according to CNN.

According to the documents filed on Thursday, the Smartmatic executives used "slush funds" and "fake contracts" to facilitate alleged bribes and masked their actions with phony email accounts.

"I am surprised to learn about a complaint filed against me. I have never been contacted by the US Department of Homeland Security about it for comment," Bautista wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday.

"But let me be very clear. I did not ask for nor receive any bribe money from Smartmatic or any other entity," he said, adding that the 2016 presidential election in the Philippines was "hailed by various independent national and local election stakeholders as the best managed in our electoral history."

Smartmatic is already embroiled in several lawsuits against Fox News and former allies of former Donald Trump, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, over claims that its machines were used to manipulate the results of the 2020 US election.

Smartmatic spokeswoman Samira Saba said in a statement that the Florida-based company "has never won a project through any illegal means" and that the allegations in the case against Bautista are "not related to Smartmatic election security or integrity."

There is no indication that Bautista is currently in US custody, and the court filing against him does not accuse Smartmatic of tampering with the Philippine election results, CNN added.