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Four years ago, three representatives of San Diego energy giant Sempra Energy sat down in front of investigators from the FBI.
Their mission: to convince the feds that the company wasn’t corrupt.
Federal agents had called the meeting in February 2011 following allegations that Sempra, a Fortune 500 company, had bribed Mexican politicians to build a $1 billion liquefied natural gas plant on the Baja California coast.
Sempra’s lawyers pleaded their case to the investigators, who were accompanied by officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice. The company’s activities in Mexico, Sempra lawyers said, should be of no concern to the feds.
Then Sempra attorneys dropped the name of someone they believed should be on authorities’ radar. They asked the FBI to investigate José Susumo Azano Matsura, a wealthy Mexican businessman who lived in a mansion in Coronado. Sempra’s attorneys told agents that Azano had arranged and paid for an armed police raid on the company’s Baja California plant less than a week earlier, according to an FBI summary of the meeting. Sempra believed Azano was trying to extort the company out of hundreds of millions of dollars.