Former Goldman banker accused in foreign bribery scheme
A former Goldman Sachs banker helped pass millions of dollars in bribes to Ghanaian officials to curry favour for his clients’ plans to build an electrical power plant, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged on Monday.
The SEC said in a complaint filed in New York that Asante Berko “took deliberate measures to prevent his employer from detecting bribery schemes” and that the bank he worked for is not facing any charges.
Goldman, which is still facing a US investigation into the multibillion-dollar 1MDB embezzlement and bribery case in Malaysia, was not identified by the SEC, but Mr Berko was an executive director in Goldman’s London office at the time of the alleged offences, which took place from 2015 to at least 2016.
The SEC alleges that the banker arranged for an unnamed Turkish energy company to funnel between $3m and $4.5m to a Ghana-based company that intended to use the funds to bribe government officials who could approve the company’s plans to build a power plant.
Mr Berko, a US citizen, also facilitated payments of more than $200,000 in bribes to other government officials and personally paid more than $60,000 to members of the Ghanaian government and other officials, the SEC said.
“Mr Berko orchestrated a scheme to bribe high-level Ghanaian officials in pursuit of firm business and his own enrichment,” said Charles Cain, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit.
“Mr Berko’s misconduct was egregious and individual accountability remains a key component to our FCPA enforcement efforts,” Mr Cain added, stressing that the banker’s employer “took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction and it is not being charged”.
The complaint charges Mr Berko with violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and federal securities laws. Mr Berko faces fines as well as “other remedies”, the SEC said.
Mr Berko’s lawyer, Carl Loewenson of Morrison Foerster, said he had ‘no comment for now”.
The SEC said Mr Berko announced his resignation from Goldman in December 2016 and it became effective the following March. In January of this year, Mr Berko was appointed chief executive of Tema Oil Refinery in Ghana.
“Goldman Sachs fully co-operated 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,” a spokeswoman for the bank said.
The SEC said Mr Berko used his personal Gmail account for correspondence in relation to the scheme and misled colleagues at Goldman about the nature of the intermediary company used to process the bribes.
In the 1MDB scandal, Goldman is awaiting the outcome of a Department of Justice investigation into whether it bears any responsibility for the participation of at least one of its senior bankers in a scheme to defraud the Malaysian state.
Goldman has claimed that it had no knowledge of the actions of its former partner Tim Leissner and another former banker Roger Ng, who have both been criminally charged for their alleged roles in helping to loot much of the $6bn that Goldman helped 1MDB to raise between 2012 and 2013.
Mr Leissner has pleaded guilty in the case. Mr Ng is awaiting trial this year.