TOR boss accused of paying $2.5m in bribes to govt officials, MPs

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Tema Oil Refinery boss Asante Berko for “orchestrating a bribery scheme” and arranging at least $2.5 million in bribes to be paid to Ghana government officials to gain approval for a client’s power plant project.

The accusations are in relation to Mr Berko’s time and role as a former banker at a subsidiary of a U.S. bank.

Berko’s action is said to be in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The government officials, as well as companies, were not named by the court.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Asante Berko also arranged the bribes for a Turkish energy company to funnel the money to a Ghana-based intermediary.

The local company then allegedly made the payments to government officials.

“From approximately 2015 through at least 2016 (the “relevant period”), while employed at the Subsidiary, Berko schemed to bribe various government officials in the Republic of Ghana (“Ghana”) so that a client of the Subsidiary, a Turkish Energy Company (the “Energy Company”), would win a contract (the “Power Purchase Agreement”) to build and operate an electrical power plant in Ghana and sell the power to the Ghanaian government (the “Power Plant Project” or “Project”).”

Asante Berko is alleged to have arranged for the Energy Company to funnel between $3 million to $4.5 million to a Ghana-based intermediary company “to bribe various government officials responsible for approving the Power Plant Project”.

The Energy Company transferred at least $2.5 million of the planned $3 million to $4.5 million to the Intermediary Company. “All or most of which was used to bribe Ghanaian government officials,” the court documents noted.

Berko then had to make some payments as bribes to some Members of the Ghanaian Parliament.

“By August 2015, Berko had paid bribes of at least $66,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials in his effort to obtain approval for the Power Plant Project.”

The banker then helped the Intermediary company pay smaller bribes, “totalling approximately $210,000, to various other government officials involved in the Power Plant Project”.

“These included bribes to a Ghanaian government official (“Government Official 2”) who assisted Government Official 1 on the Project, employees at the Ministry of Power who provided confidential information to the Intermediary Company concerning the Project, government engineers who assessed the Energy Company’s technology, and officials at other government agencies who reviewed the Project.”

The court documents stressed Berko was paid $2 million for “facilitating the bribery scheme”.

“Following his departure from the Subsidiary, Berko began providing consulting services for the Energy Company,” the documents also noted.

“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.”

Find below 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.

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