SEC bribery lawsuit against Och-Ziff executives is dismissed

July 13, 2018 10:30 AM EDT

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge has dismissed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's lawsuit accusing two former Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC (NYSE: OZM) executives of masterminding a scheme to funnel tens of millions of dollars of bribes to African officials.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn ruled on Thursday that the SEC could not collect fines, recoup profit or obtain injunctions because it had missed a five-year deadline to sue the defendants, Michael Cohen and Vanja Baros.

The SEC accused Cohen, who headed the hedge fund's European office, and Baros, an executive for African-related business, of arranging bribes to enter natural resources transactions and win investments in Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Libya and Niger.

It said the suspect transactions in many cases involved the use of investor money, not Och-Ziff's own capital.

Garaufis said in a 32-page decision that two recent Supreme Court precedents barred the January 2017 lawsuit, which challenged transactions that took place between May 2007 and April 2011.

The judge also said Cohen's agreements to put the statute of limitations on hold for some SEC claims lacked the "broad language" that might have averted the case's dismissal.

Och-Ziff's Michael Cohen is not the longtime personal lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump.

The SEC did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment.

Ronald White, a lawyer for Cohen, did not immediately respond to similar requests. Mark Cohen, a lawyer for Baros, also did not immediately respond to such requests.

Och-Ziff in September 2016 reached a $412 million settlement of related U.S. investigations, and its OZ Africa Management unit pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge.

Chief Executive Daniel Och, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE: GS) trader, agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle an SEC recordkeeping violation charge, without admitting wrongdoing.

Och and Och-Ziff were not defendants in the SEC case against Cohen and Baros.

The case is SEC v Cohen et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 17-00430.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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