Politics

Akufo-Addo’s New TOR Boss Entangled In $2.5 Million Bribery In US

Preliminary findings made by The Herald have established some striking similarities between the new Managing Director (MD) of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) and man the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has indicted for arranging at least $2.5 million in bribes to be paid to Ghana government officials and Parliamentarians to gain approval for a client’s power plant project.

Files dug out by The Herald, did not only reveal similarities in names but the profiles and onetime employers of the man the U.S. securities regulator on Monday charged and about to prosecute.

The TOR MD, bears the name Asante Berko and was once an employee of Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) which are similar to the details the US SEC has released on the man accused of arranging the $2.5 million bribes, per the Reuters news report.

Asante K Berko of TOR, has also been mentioned as an former Executive Director of Goldman Sachs International, in London, United Kingdom.

The Financial News of London also reported on the bribery but gave higher amounts saying SEC alleges that Asante Berko facilitated as much as $4.5m in bribes.

It said that the former banker at Goldman Sachs arranged for millions of dollars in bribes to be paid to government officials in Ghana to help a client win a power-plant contract, US regulators said Monday in a civil lawsuit.

According to the Financial News, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Asante Berko, facilitated the $4.5m in bribes to help a Turkish energy company win a contract to build a power plant. The SEC says the energy company, which wasn’t named, funneled money to an intermediary, which then paid bribes to Ghanaian officials.

Berko, who left Goldman Sachs in 2016, also personally paid bribes totaling $66,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials, the SEC alleges.

An attorney for Berko declined to comment on the lawsuit, which accuses Berko of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That law bars individuals and companies from giving anything of value to overseas officials to win business.

The SEC said in a press release that Berko tried to hide the scheme from the bank, whose compliance officers questioned how the deal was put together. Goldman, which wasn’t named in the SEC’s lawsuit, terminated its involvement with the project after the energy company refused to explain the intermediary firm’s role, the SEC’s legal complaint says.

“Goldman Sachs fully cooperated with the SEC’s investigation and as stated by the SEC in its press release, the firm’s compliance personnel took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction,” said Nicole Sharp, a spokeswoman for Goldman.

The energy company paid Berko $2m for successfully coordinating the effort, the SEC alleges. The payments violated Berko’s employment agreement with the bank, the SEC’s lawsuit says.

Berko knew the bank stood to earn $10m in fees if the energy company won the contract and organized financing for it, the lawsuit alleges. The deal would have “enhanced Berko’s performance and stature within” the bank, according to the SEC’s complaint.

In the suit, which was filed in Brooklyn federal court, the SEC asks for Berko to pay fines and give back any compensation he earned through the scheme.

The Akufo-Addo government had in January, this year, announced his appointment as the new MD of the state refinery.

The said Mr. Berko of TOR, took over from Isaac Osei who resigned effective from January 1, 2020 after steering the affairs of the Refinery for two and a half years.

In January, this year, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Tema, had in a news article mentioned unnamed sources at TOR as having given out details on the new TOR MD.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said that the Asante Berko, they had indicted, was a former employee at a subsidiary of the U.S. lender, and he had arranged the bribes for a Turkish energy company to funnel the money to a Ghana-based intermediary, which then paid the local officials.

“Goldman Sachs fully cooperated with the SEC’s investigation and as stated by the SEC in its press release, the firm’s compliance personnel took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction,” company spokeswoman Nicole Sharp said.

Berko helped the Ghana-based intermediary pay more than $200,000 in bribes to various other government officials, and personally paid more than $60,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials, the SEC statement said, adding that Berko took deliberate measures to prevent his employer from detecting the bribery scheme.

The regulator filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and is seeking monetary penalties, among other remedies, against Berko.

The Wall Street Journal had reported the news earlier in the day.

The GNA had January reported that the new TOR boss, Mr Asante K Berko, formerly  an Executive Director of Goldman Sachs International, in London, United Kingdom had had an impressive   career including, head of Debt Capital Markets and Structure Assets Solutions of Barclays Capital / Absa Capital, Johannesburg, South Africa, from June 2008 to June 2014.

The report said, he also worked as the vice-president of Credit-Suisse, Assets Finance, New York in addition to been vice-president and portfolio manager of Sun Trust Robinson-Humphrey.

The new TOR MD had also worked as manager at Ernst & Young, in charge of Asset Finance Solutions/Leasing Group in San Francisco and also held other positions in some companies.

Mr Berko holds an M.A. in economics from Tufts university, Medford Massachusetts, B.Sc(econ) in Economics & Accounting from the University of Hull, UK, Diploma in Computer Programming and Data Processing from the London-College, and a certificate in Econometrics & Regression Analysis from York university, Ontario, Canada.

More to come!

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