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SEC charges former Goldman Sachs exec with ‘egregious’ FCPA violations

The SEC charged a former Goldman Sachs executive Monday with FCPA violations stemming from his alleged bribery plot to help a Turkish energy company win a power plant contract in Ghana.

Asante Berko, 46, who holds both U.S. and Ghanian citizenship and lives in Ghana, was charged in a civil complaint filed in federal court in New York with violating and aiding and abetting violations of the FCPA anti-bribery provisions.

According to the SEC, Berko helped the Turkish energy company pay at least $2.5 million to a Ghana-based intermediary, “all or most of which was used to bribe Ghanaian government officials” to secure approval of an electrical power plant project.

Berko was an executive at Goldman Sachs in London, according to reports. He allegedly resigned in late 2016 but continued helping the Turkish energy company as a consultant after leaving the bank.

In 2015, Berko negotiated a contract for the Turkish energy company to pay the intermediary $2.5 million at first, and up to $42 million over five years, the complaint said.

The contract “encouraged” the intermediary to bribe government officials, the SEC said, by specifying that all payments to the intermediary were “conditioned on it actually obtaining the sought-after governmental concessions.”

The contract also included secret compensation of $2 million to Berko, which he received, that wasn’t disclosed to Goldman Sachs, according to the complaint.

Berko also personally paid about $66,000 in bribes to Ghana government officials, the SEC said.

Asante Berko FCPA Complaint

 

Goldman Sachs discovered the existence of the intermediary during a due diligence review of Berko’s emails. At first he downplayed the intermediary’s role and then lied about it, the SEC said.

After Goldman launched a wider compliance investigation, it received “incomplete and inaccurate information” from executives of the Turkish energy company, the SEC said. When Goldman continued the investigation, the executives allegedly “refused to answer more questions on the topic.”

As a result of its investigation, Goldman Sachs ended its involvement in the energy project by August 2016, the SEC said.

Compliance personnel at Goldman Sachs took “appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction” and it is not being charged, the SEC said Monday.

The SEC said it is seeking “a civil penalty” against Berko for the FCPA violations, and disgorgement. It asked for a jury trial.

The agency said “Berko acted as an employee and/or agent” of U.S.-based Goldman Sachs for the Turkish power project.

Berko used “a United States-based email account . . . to advance the bribery scheme,” the SEC said. He also allegedly knew that documents related to the power project would be sent to Goldman’s offices in New York and that money “to facilitate the bribe scheme” would be wired through banks in New York “and then to individuals and entities in Ghana.”

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