Hartsfield-Jackson contractor pleads guilty to bribery

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

An airport contractor has pleaded guilty to bribery for paying $20,000 to a city of Atlanta procurement official in 2017 for a contract at Hartsfield-Jackson International.

Hayat Choudhary, chief executive of Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services Inc., paid an initial $10,000 bribe to the city procurement official after the city in May 2017 announced a 10-year contract to operate a kitchen/restaurant at the airport's taxi hold lot building, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

The unnamed official then “instructed Choudhary that he had to pay another $10,000 to receive the contract,” which he paid, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The company in August 2017 was awarded the contract, with a projected $200,000 in annual revenue.

Choudhary, a 58-year-old resident of Lilburn, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit bribery and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 14.

G. Michael Smith, Choudhary’s attorney, said his client “got caught in a bad situation where he was pressured into trying to get a contract signed that he had been awarded.”

The U.S. Attorney's office has spent years conducting a federal corruption investigation into Atlanta City Hall. Three city officials have been sentenced to prison in the probe so far, including the former head of the city's procurement department, the former head of contract compliance and the former deputy chief of staff for then-Mayor Kasim Reed.

However, Choudhary's sentencing puts the world's busiest airport at the center of the latest charge.

“Choudhary tried to buy his way around a process that is meant to be fair to all contract applicants,” FBI Atlanta special agent in charge Chris Hacker said in a written statement.