U.S. charges Gabonese man for bribe scheme involving hedge fund
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By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Gabonese man who consulted for a joint venture involving a U.S. hedge fund was arrested on Tuesday on charges that he participated in a scheme to bribe officials in Africa to obtain mining rights.
Samuel Mebiame, who authorities say worked as a "fixer" for the joint venture and one of its mining companies, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn for conspiring to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The complaint did not name the fund, but its description matched that of Och-Ziff Capital Management, which has been in talks with the U.S. authorities to resolve probes into its involvement in bribes paid to African officials.
The complaint said the U.S. hedge fund involved in the case had formed a joint venture in January 2008 with a Turks and Caicos Islands entity.
Och-Ziff that same month formed a joint venture in Africa with Palladino Holdings Ltd, an investment vehicle incorporated in the Turks and Caicos Islands founded by South African businessman Walter Hennig.
Mebiame, the 43-year-old son of the late former Gabon Prime Minister Leon Mebiame, was arrested in Brooklyn on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said.
His arrest came after he voluntarily met with federal law enforcement in June 2015 to discuss his role in paying bribes to secure mining concessions for the joint venture, the complaint said.
A spokesman for Och-Ziff declined to comment on Tuesday, as did Benjamin Tymann, a lawyer for Mebiame. Contact information for Palladino could not be immediately located.
Och-Ziff said this month that it was in talks with the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve the probes and had set aside $414.3 million ahead of a final settlement.
Tuesday's complaint said Mebiame admitted supplying cash and cars to two married Niger officials; an S-class Mercedes Benz sedan and rented private Airbus jet to a Guinean official; and travel and shopping expenses for an adviser to Chad's president.
For his work, the complaint said Mebiame was paid at least $3.5 million through 2012.
He also believed he would receive an interest in a mining company the venture owned, leading to a dispute over his stake. In an email in 2009, he later threatened to tell the media about its "illegal procedures to secure assets in Africa," the complaint said.
In the email, which he sent to an employee of the joint venture, Mebiame claimed it had "used corruption in Africa to get the assets you have."
The case is U.S. v. Mebiame, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 16-mj-752.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Dan Grebler and Diane Craft)
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