JANUARY 08, 2008
Several federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, have launched a criminal investigation into one of the nation’s largest seaports just weeks after a state audit revealed rampant fraud and corruption among the officials who run the public facility.
Released in mid December, the findings of an investigation conducted by Washington’s state auditor blasted the Port of Seattle’s chief executive and other top officials for lax management and repeatedly violating state law by granting contracts without competition to companies with whom they had cozy relationships.
As a result tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted and the port was vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse, according to state agency’s report. It lists several examples of wrongdoing, including the award of a $115 million construction contract that one top manager admitted was improper under federal rules.
Launched this week by multiple federal agencies, the criminal investigation will focus on the close and unethical relationships between port employees and the contractors who have benefited from lucrative no-bid deals. The FBI and Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation will also participate in the widespread probe.
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