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TOR boss, Ghanaian MPs fingered in foreign bribery scandal

TOR boss, Ghanaian MPs fingered in foreign bribery scandal

The U.S. securities regulator has charged a former banker at Goldman Sachs over a bribery scheme facilitating bribery payments to Ghana government officials to gain approval for a client’s power plant project.

The former banker, Asante Berko, who happens to be the boss of the Tema Oil Refinery is accused of passing millions of dollars in bribes to Ghanaian officials to curry favour for his clients’ plans to build an electrical power plant, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged on Monday.

The report said Berko helped the Ghana-based intermediary pay more than $200,000 in bribes to various other government officials, and personally paid more than $60,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials, adding that Berko took deliberate measures to prevent his employer from detecting the bribery scheme.

The SEC alleges that the banker arranged for an unnamed Turkish energy company to funnel between $3m and $4.5m to a Ghana-based company that intended to use the funds to bribe government officials who could approve the company’s plans to build a power plant, according to a FT.com report.

Mr Berko, a US citizen, also facilitated payments of more than $200,000 in bribes to other government officials and personally paid more than $60,000 to members of the Ghanaian government and other officials, the SEC said.

“Mr Berko orchestrated a scheme to bribe high-level Ghanaian officials in pursuit of firm business and his own enrichment,” said Charles Cain, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit.

“Mr Berko’s misconduct was egregious and individual accountability remains a key component to our FCPA enforcement efforts,” Mr Cain added, stressing that the banker’s employer “took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction and it is not being charged”. The complaint charges Mr Berko with violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and federal securities laws. Mr Berko faces fines as well as “other remedies”, the SEC said.

Mr Berko’s lawyer, Carl Loewenson of Morrison Foerster, said he had ‘no comment for now”, according to the Financial Times.

The SEC said Mr Berko announced his resignation from Goldman in December 2016 and it became effective the following March. In January of this year, Mr Berko was appointed chief executive of Tema Oil Refinery in Ghana.

“Goldman Sachs fully co-operated with the SEC’s investigation and as stated by the SEC in its press release, the firm’s compliance personnel took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction,” a spokeswoman for the bank said.

The SEC said Mr Berko used his personal Gmail account for correspondence in relation to the scheme and misled colleagues at Goldman about the nature of the intermediary company used to process the bribes.

In the 1MDB scandal, Goldman is awaiting the outcome of a Department of Justice investigation into whether it bears any responsibility for the participation of at least one of its senior bankers in a scheme to defraud the Malaysian state.

Goldman has claimed that it had no knowledge of the actions of its former partner Tim Leissner and another former banker Roger Ng, who have both been criminally charged for their alleged roles in helping to loot much of the $6bn that Goldman helped 1MDB to raise between 2012 and 2013. Mr Leissner has pleaded guilty in the case. Mr Ng is awaiting trial this year.

Below is the full US SEC statement

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged a former executive of a financial services company with orchestrating a bribery scheme to help a client to win a government contract to build and operate an electrical power plant in the Republic of Ghana in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Asante Berko, a former executive of a foreign-based subsidiary of a U.S. bank holding company, arranged for his firm’s client, a Turkish energy company, to funnel at least $2.5 million to a Ghana-based intermediary to pay illicit bribes to Ghanaian government officials in order to gain their approval of an electrical power plant project.  The complaint further alleges that Berko helped the intermediary pay more than $200,000 in bribes to various other government officials, and Berko personally paid more than $60,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials.  According to the complaint, Berko took deliberate measures to prevent his employer from detecting his bribery scheme, including misleading his employer’s compliance personnel about the true role and purpose of the intermediary company.

“As alleged in our complaint, Berko orchestrated a scheme to bribe high-level Ghanaian officials in pursuit of firm business and his own enrichment.  Berko’s misconduct was egregious and individual accountability remains a key component to our FCPA enforcement efforts,” said Charles Cain, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit.  “The firm’s compliance personnel took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction and it is not being charged.”

The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, charges Berko with violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and federal securities laws. The SEC is seeking monetary penalties against Berko among other remedies.

The SEC’s case is being handled by Asita Obeyesekere and Paul G. Block of the FCPA Unit and Kathleen Shields, Mark Albers, and Marty Healey of the Boston Regional Office.

Source: Daily Mail GH 

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