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DOJ seeks forfeiture of $34 million in bribes from Canada company to Chad diplomats

The DOJ filed a complaint Tuesday for the civil forfeiture of $34 million — the value of shares in a Canadian energy company used to bribe Chad’s former ambassador to the United States and Canada to influence the award of oil development rights.

From 2004 to 2012, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, 50, served as Chad’s ambassador to the U.S. and Canada. He now lives in South Africa.

From 2007 until this year, Youssouf Hamid Takane, 52, was the deputy chief of mission. He’s now living in the U.S.

In 2009, the DOJ said, Bechir and Takane agreed to use their official positions to influence the award of oil development rights in Chad to Griffiths Energy International Inc., a Canadian oil company, in exchange for shares in the company. 

In late 2009, Griffiths Energy issued four million shares to the wives of Bechir and Takane and to another associate.

Griffiths Energy also agreed to pay Bechir’s wife a $2 million “consulting fee” to influence the award of oil development rights in Chad. 

After Griffiths won the development rights in February 2011, it allegedly transferred $2 million to an account held by a shell company created by Bechir’s wife. 

“This bribe payment was commingled and laundered through U.S. bank accounts and real property, and eventually was transferred to Bechir’s bank account in South Africa, where he is now serving as Chad’s Ambassador,” the DOJ said.

In 2013, Griffiths Energy pleaded guilty in a Canadian court to bribing Bechir. The company was charged under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. Griffiths cooperated with Canadian authorities.

Griffiths Energy’s co-founder, Brad Griffiths, was killed in a 2011 boating accident.

Last year, the DOJ filed a separate civil forfeiture action for $106,000 in allegedly laundered funds traceable to the $2 million bribe payment.

This DOJ filed both forfeiture actions under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

Where appropriate, the DOJ said, it seeks to return proceeds recovered under the initiative “to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office.”

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A copy of the DOJ’s June 30, 2015 In Rem civil forfeiture complaint is here (pdf).

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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