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DOJ Criminally Charges Gabonese National Connected To Och-Ziff With FCPA Conspiracy In Connection With African Mining Projects

Och-Ziff, a publicly-traded hedge fund that has been under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act scrutiny since 2011 for its business dealings in Africa, recently disclosed that it is in discussions with the DOJ and SEC regarding resolution of the matter. As noted in this recent post [1], Och-Ziff has reserved over $400 million in anticipation of the resolution. (For the latest on this expected resolution see here [2]).

In the meantime, a criminal complaint [3] was recently unsealed charging Samuel Mebiame, a Gabonese national connected to Och-Ziff, with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions.

In the criminal complaint, Mebiame is described as follows.

“A Gabonese national who worked as a consultant for a joint venture (the “Joint Venture”) between a U.S. -based hedge Fund (the “Hedge Fund”) and a Turks & Caicos Islands incorporated entity (the “Turks & Caicos Entity”) in or about and between 2007 and 2015. Mebiame’s job was to source and secure mining opportunities in Africa for the Joint Venture and one of its portfolio companies.”

Although not specifically named in the complaint, it has been widely reported [4] that the Hedge Fund is Och-Ziff, the Turks & Caicos Entity is Palladino Holdings Ltd and the Joint Venture is Africa Management Ltd.

In summary fashion, the complaint alleges:

“Mebiame worked on behalf of the Joint Venture, the Turks & Caicos Entity, and the Mining Company as a ‘fixer’ to obtain rights to mineral concessions in Africa by routinely paying bribes to foreign government officials. Mebiame bribed government officials in at least each of Niger, Guinea and Chad.”

The criminal charges against Mebiame invoke the dd-3 prong of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and states:

“Mebiame personally took numerous steps while in the United States in furtherance of the scheme, including, but not limited to, sending and receiving email and other communications with coconspirators about the corrupt scheme, receiving payments related to the corrupt scheme into U.S. bank accounts he established and meeting with coconspirators to discuss the corrupt scheme.”

According to the complaint, Mebiame “voluntarily met with federal law enforcement agents and made statements” twice in June 2015. For instance, according to Mebiame he was paid at least $3.5 million for his services which included the payment of bribes.

Regarding Niger, the complaint states that “Mebiame admitted that he acquired rights to uranium concessions by paying bribes”  to Niger officials “who had the power to grant uranium mining licenses to the Mining Company and Joint Venture. According to the complaint, Mebiame told federal agents that these bribes included, among other things: cash payments directly to a Niger official; payments for ‘nice cars;’ a $100,000 payment to a charity run by a Niger official; payments made to and through the nephew of a Niger official; payments made to and through the son of a Niger official; and payments made through a lawyer.

Regarding Guinea, the complaint states that “during his interview with federal agents, Mebiame stated that he had special access to mining opportunities in Guinea because of payments he provided to senior government officials in Guinea in exchange for such access.” According to the complaint, Mebiame provided an S-class Mercedes Benz to a candidate for high political office in Guinea who was later elected. The complaint also alleges that Mebiame arranged to pay $440,000 to rent a private Airbus jet for the same official. Further the complaint alleges that Mebiame told federal agents that his financial support to Guinean government officials included, but was not limited to, approximately $100,000 to $200,000 in cash payments which allowed Mebiame to obtain secret information which provided him leverage in negotiations with the government.

Regarding Chad, the complaint states that Mebiame also admitted to federal agents that he paid bribes to a high-level government official in Chad to obtain uranium concessions on behalf of the Mining Company and Joint Venture. According to the complaint, Mebiame stated that he gave the official cash and paid for travel expenses and shopping excursions for the official and the official’s spouse in Paris.