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SFO recovers oil company bribe money from Chad diplomats

The UK Serious Fraud Office Thursday won recovery of £4.4 million ($6.2 million) from two Chad diplomats who took bribes from a Canada oil company in the United States and Canada.

The recovered money will be transferred to the Department for International Development (DFID), which will identify key projects to invest in that will benefit the poorest in Chad, the SFO said.

It’s the first time money has been returned overseas through a civil recovery case, the SFO said.

The UK High Court ruled in favor of the SFO after a three-day trial in London.

The money in the Royal Bank of Scotland came from the sale of 800,000 shares in Caracal Energy Inc, formerly known as Griffiths Energy International Inc.

Griffiths Energy sold the shares to a nominee of two Chad diplomats for about $1 million. In exchange for the deeply discounted shares, the diplomats helped Griffith win exclusive oil development rights in Chad.

In 2013, Griffiths Energy paid a C$10 million ($7.75 million) criminal fine after pleading guilty in a Canadian court to violating the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

Griffiths admitted bribing Chad’s former ambassador to the United States and Canada, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, and his wife, along with Youssouf Hamid Takane, Chad’s deputy chief of mission in the United States.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint for civil forfeiture of $34 million in assets held by Bechir and his wife and Takane. In 2014, the DOJ asked the SFO for help under their mutual legal assistance agreement.

The High Court granted the SFO’s freeze order in 2015.

The SFO said its victory in the High Court Thursday “followed a number of previous appeals” against the 2015 freeze order.

SFO director David Green said Thursday, “Today’s ruling follows four years of tireless efforts by the SFO to recover the proceeds of this corrupt deal for oil in Chad.”

“This is a positive result in the ongoing fight against criminals who attempt to hide their ill-gotten gains in our jurisdiction,” Green said.

In two earlier overseas bribery cases, the SFO helped fund overseas projects with recovered money.

The SFO used money from a confiscation order against executives at Smith & Ouzman convicted of bribery in 2016 to buy seven new ambulances in Kenya.

ICBC Standard Bank paid £4.9 million ($6.9 million) to the government of Tanzania as part of a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve overseas bribery offenses.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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