African Barrick Gold, Tanzania’s largest gold producer, paid more than $400,000 in cash to government officials and consultants there responsible for valuing mining land.
African Barrick is a subsidiary of Canada’s Barrick Gold Corporation, a public company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Wall Street Journal reported reported Wednesday it had spoken with sources and reviewed African Barrick’s company invoices and copies of checks.
An anonymous person said the payments were bribes to officials in position to influence African Barrick’s business interests.
African Barrick and Toronto-based Barrick Gold said the payments weren’t bribes but legitimate expenses and allowances tied to an agreement with the Tanzanian government.
“Cash is often the only viable method of payment because in many regions of the country, banking infrastructure and services are extremely limited, or sometimes not available at all,” the companies said. “All such payments are carefully documented, monitored and controlled.”
An investigation for the companies by law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP found that African Barrick “acted appropriately in all instances, in accordance with Tanzanian, U.S., and U.K. law,” the companies said.
African Barrick has cut back payments to Tanzania officials and is evaluating different payment methods, people close to the company told the WSJ.
The Tanzanian government didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.
An anonymous email to one of the WSJ‘s sources at African Barrick mentioned plans to report the payments to the FCPA units of the Justice Department and SEC.
Barrick Gold Corporation trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ABX.
The company declined to comment on whether U.S. authorities have contacted it regarding the allegations.
The WSJ report said some of the money was paid in cash to Adam Yusuf, the head of a Tanzanian government task force overseeing the land valuation for African Barrick, with the intention that he would deliver cash to other officials, which ranged from $19,000 to $121,000.
The payments were to compensate task-force members for their time, according to documents reviewed by the WSJ.
Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.