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Monday
Dec122016

Och-Ziff middleman pleads guilty to Africa bribes

The son of a former Prime Minister of Gabon pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing government officials in Africa.

Samuel Mebiame, 43, a Gabonese national, was a consultant to a mining company owned by an Och-Ziff joint venture. He worked for the joint venture from 2007 to 2012.

In Niger, Mebiame paid more than $3 million in bribes to a top official. He also gave the official luxury cars. In return, the Och-Ziff joint venture received licenses for uranium concessions. 

In Chad, Mebiame bribed a high-ranking government official with cash and luxury foreign travel for the official and the official’s wife. The Och-Ziff JV was granted uranium concessions including an asset stripped from a French-owned company at Mebiame’s urging. 

In Guinea, Mebiame obtained confidential government information by bribing officials with cash, the use of private jets, and an S-Class Mercedes Benz.

Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC agreed in September to a $412 million FCPA settlement with the DOJ and SEC. The violations related to Mebiame's bribery in Africa and to other offenses in Libya. It was the fourth biggest FCPA enforcement action ever.

As part of the settlement, an Och-Ziff Africa unit pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information. The company was charged with a conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Formal sentencing is set for March 29, 2017.

Och-Ziff CEO Daniel Och agreed to pay nearly $2.2 million to settle SEC charges that he caused FCPA violations.

Och founded the New York-based hedge fund manager in 1994. It's one of the biggest institutional alternative asset managers in the world, with about $40 billion under management.

The DOJ and SEC started sending subpoenas to Och-Ziff in 2011. The SEC uncovered the bribery when examining how Och-Ziff attracted an investment from Libya's sovereign wealth fund.

Mebiame was arrested in August in Brooklyn. He faces up to five years in prison. Sentencing is set for April 6.

His father, Leon Mebiame, was prime minister of Gabon from 1975 to 1990. He died in December 2015.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.