US prosecutors charge Tema Oil Refinery MD for arranging bribes for Ghanaian public officials, legislators

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The Managing Director of the Tema Oil Refinery, Asante Berko has been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States of America for arranging at least $2.5 million in bribes to be paid to Ghana government officials to gain approval for a power plant project.

The bribes were allegedly arranged by Mr. Berko when he was an executive director with the US bank, Goldman Sachs. He was appointed Managing Director of the Tema Oil Refinery in January 2020, replacing Isaac Osei, who resigned.

A statement released on Monday by the US Security and Exchanges Commission said it had “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 Ghana in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).”

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Mr. 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 $66,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials.

According to the complaint, Berko took deliberate measures to prevent his employer, Goldman Sachs, from detecting his bribery scheme, including misleading his employer’s compliance personnel about the true role and purpose of the intermediary company.

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Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit, Charles Cain said, “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,”

He said, “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.

Reacting to the charge against Mr Berko, a US-based Ghanaian lawyer popularly known as Kwaku Azar, wrote on Facebook: “Unlike the poor guy who got remanded for stealing cocoyams, you will not see Asante Berko, current TOR MD, remanded for his role in facilitating $4.5M bribe payments to government officials, including a misery $66,000 to our MPs while he Berko pocketed a cool $2M for his role in the illegal scheme. What due diligence was made before his appointment?”

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