Asante Berko - Managing Director of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR)
A former executive at Goldman Sachs Group Incorporated, a London subsidiary, Asante Berko who is currently the Managing Director of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) has been accused of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
This was after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged the former banker for “orchestrating a bribery scheme” and arranging at least $2.5 million in bribes to be paid to officials of the Ghana government and also bribing Members of Parliament to help a client win a power-plant contract.
The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Asante Berko, a former executive at Goldman’s London subsidiary, facilitated as much as $4.5 million 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, funnelled money to an intermediary, which then paid bribes to Ghanaian officials.
Mr Berko, who left Goldman Sachs in 2016, also personally paid bribes totalling $66,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials, the SEC alleges.
The SEC said in a press release that Mr 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.
According to a spokeswoman for Goldman, Nicole Sharp she said:
“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.”
Mr Berko’s cart in the deal
According to the court documents, Mr Berko sought to “profit from the bribery scheme” in two ways.
Mr Berko knew the bank stood to earn $10 million 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.
Also, by at least July 2015, Mr Berko was assured that the Energy Company “would secretly compensate him for arranging the bribe scheme.”
This was “unbeknownst to the Subsidiary and in violation of Berko’s employment agreement with the Subsidiary.”
Between September 2016 and February 2017, the Energy Company paid Berko $2 million for successfully coordinating the bribery scheme, payments which violated Mr Berko’s employment agreement with the bank (Goldman Sachs Group Incorporated)
How was Mr Berko found guilty?
Mr Berko is said to have taken “deliberate measures” to prevent his firm and subsidiary’s compliance personnel “from discovering his corrupt scheme.”
At first, Mr Berko used his email rather than his firm’s email (Goldman Sachs) “to arrange the bribery scheme in order to evade detection.”
According to the documents’ explanation, “Berko knew that Subsidiary and/or Holding Company compliance personnel could review his work email as part of their periodic and/or project-related due diligence,” which he (Mr Berko) thought would not affect his work since his email was private.
Secondly, Mr Berko “intentionally failed to correct a critical document” meant for the Holding Company “that falsely stated that the Energy Company had not compensated any intermediaries or politically exposed persons in connection with the Power Plant Project.”
“Despite Berko’s efforts to conceal his misconduct, the Holding Company required additional due diligence to further assess the potential reputational risks associated with the Project and to address other concerns.”
As part of this diligence, during March 2016, compliance personnel at the Subsidiary reviewed Berko’s emails and discovered the involvement of the Intermediary Company.
After interviewing Mr Berko about the Intermediary Company, they began further investigations into the matter leading to the final results of his involvement in the corrupt act.
The court’s take on the matter
An attorney for Mr Berko, however, declined to comment on the lawsuit, which indirectly accuses Mr Berko of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, barring individuals and companies from giving anything of value to overseas officials to win businesses.
In the suit, which was filed in Brooklyn federal court, the SEC has asked Mr Berko to pay fines and give back any compensation he earned through the scheme.
About USA’s SEC
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is an independent federal government agency responsible for protecting investors, maintaining fair and orderly functioning of the securities markets, and facilitating capital formation.