by WorldTribune Staff, November 30, 2023
Smartmatic, which is suing numerous media outlets and individuals for defamation related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, has had its voting technology banned in the Philippines after being caught up in an alleged bribery scandal.
The Philippines’ Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on Wednesday said it would ban Smartmatic PH. The decision followed an announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice that it filed criminal charges against a former COMELEC official alleging that he was bribed by Smartmatic in exchange for the voting tech company getting a contract for the use of its machines in the Philippines.
COMELEC said in a statement that Smartmatic has been “disqualified and disallowed” after the DOJ alleged that Smartmatic had bribed Andres Bautista, the former COMELEC chairman, and other Filipino officials, giving them $4 million in exchange for obtaining a contract for election machines, according to a report in CNN Philippines.
COMELEC said its action against Smartmatic was taken to “uphold the integrity” of the nation’s polls.
In September, the DOJ filed money-laundering charges against Bautista in a case allegedly involving four executives from subsidiaries of Smartmatic, according to a U.S. Southern District of Florida court filing. Bautista and Smartmatic have denied the allegations.
According to reports, Bautista awarded Smartmatic a $199 million contract to supply the Philippines with 94,000 voting machines for the 2016 presidential election. The 2016 election was won by Rodrigo Duterte, who left office after the 2022 election.
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COMELEC said the U.S. government has been seeking its assistance in getting access to records since as early as October 2022 for its investigation into violations of several U.S. laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering.
“It is noteworthy that Bautista, who served as the Chairman of the Commission, was formally charged in September 2023, in connection with allegations of receiving bribes in exchange for awarding a contract for election machines to Smartmatic Corp,” the COMELEC statement said. “Bautista and others are alleged to have laundered the bribe money through multiple entities.”
The statement continued: “It was revealed that Bautista established a foreign shell company, which was used to receive bribe payments from Smartmatic. The charges against Smartmatic and former Chairman Bautista are of public knowledge and tend to cause speculation and distrust of the electoral process.”
Smartmatic has filed defamation lawsuits in the U.S. against Fox News, Newsmax, OAN, several individual Fox hosts, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, and others, all of whom have denied wrongdoing.
Retired Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is being deposed in Los Angeles this week in Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against the company and its coverage of vote-rigging claims made by Trump and others from the 2020 presidential election.