The Son of a Former Prime Minister of Gabon Bribed High-Ranking Government Officials in Multiple African Countries to Obtain Uranium Concessions and Other Mining Rights
Samuel Mebiame, a Gabonese national and the son of a former Prime Minister of Gabon, pleaded guilty earlier today in Brooklyn federal court, to conspiring to make corrupt payments to government officials in Africa, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Mebiame worked as a consultant to a joint venture between Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, a New York-based hedge fund management company, and a Turks and Caicos incorporated entity. Mebiame paid bribes to high level government officials in Chad, Niger, and Guinea to obtain opportunities in the mining sectors in each of those countries. He faces up to five years’ imprisonment at the time of his sentencing.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York; Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Bitkower of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Ronald L. Whitsett, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), New York.
According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Mebiame worked as a “fixer” for the joint venture and conspired with others to pay bribes to foreign government officials to obtain rights to mineral concessions from government officials on behalf of the joint venture. Mebiame’s corrupt payments, made between at least 2007 and 2012, were directed to high-ranking government officials and were often masked through additional intermediaries or lawyers. In Niger, Mebiame paid more than $3 million in bribes to a high-ranking government official both directly and through the use of intermediary agents, who were selected by the government official. In addition, Mebiame made payments for luxury cars for the foreign official. In return, Mebiame obtained licenses for uranium concessions from the government of Niger for the joint venture. Similarly, in Chad, Mebiame paid cash bribes to a high-ranking government official and paid for luxury foreign travel for the official and the official’s wife. In return, Mebiame obtained uranium concessions for the joint venture, including an asset which had been stripped from a French-owned company by the Chadian government at Mebiame’s urging. In addition, during the conspirators’ efforts to establish a state-owned mining company in Guinea, Mebiame gained special access to government officials and confidential information by making corrupt payments and providing other benefits to senior government officials in Guinea, including an S-class Mercedes Benz sedan, the use of private planes, and cash. During the conspiracy, Mebiame repeatedly traveled to the United States, received payments to U.S. bank accounts, and sent e-mail communications from the United States to further the scheme. The communications included an e-mail between the conspirators which discussed a “bet” about what conduct would be sufficient to violate the FCPA.
Previously, on September 29, 2016, in connection with the government’s broader investigation, Och-Ziff was charged pursuant to a criminal information with violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records, and accounting controls violations for conduct in Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and conduct in Chad and Niger connected to Mebiame. Och-Ziff entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in connection with those charges. An Och-Ziff subsidiary company, OZ Africa Management GP, LLC, pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information related to large-scale bribe payments in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sentencing of OZ Africa Management GP, LLC has been scheduled for March 29, 2017.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office Business and Securities Fraud Section, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit of the Department of Justice, Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorneys James P. Loonam, Jonathan P. Lax, and David Pitluck, Assistant Chief Leo R. Tsao and Trial Attorney James P. McDonald are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges in this case were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.