Feds Take Aim at African Mining Bribery Plot

     BROOKLYN (CN) — A man from Gabon was arrested Tuesday on charges that he raked in $3.5 million by helping bribe African officials for mineral-mining rights.
     Samuel Mebiame, 43, was arrested in Brooklyn and faces charges of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a spokeswoman with the Department of Justice confirmed Wednesday morning.
     He remains in custody, the spokeswoman added.
     Prosecutors say Mebiame was a “fixer” for the joint venture formed in 2008 by a U.S.-based hedge fund and an entity incorporated in Turks & Caicos.
     The joint venture’s portfolio included a mining company, and Mebiame allegedly spent eight years helping the mining company obtain mineral concessions by routinely bribing officials who worked for the governments of Niger, Guinea and Chad.
     Niger, in West Africa, and Chad, in central Africa, are both rich in uranium, according to the complaint. Prosecutors say the West African nation of Guinea’s significant mineral resources include bauxite, iron ore, diamonds and gold.
     An agent with the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo signed the sealed complaint against Mebiame and application to arrest him on Aug. 12.
     The filing, which U.S. Magistrate Steven Tiscione unsealed Tuesday, says Mebiame explained the details of the scheme to federal law enforcement officials in several meetings last year.
     “According to Mebiame, African politicians and government officials sought personal financial success by acquiring power within their respective governments and, in turn, control over the natural resources of their countries, which they leveraged for their own personal gain through bribery,” the complaint states.
     For his consultant work, Mebiame earned at least $3.5 million from the joint venture, the government says, noting that Mebiame’s compensation package included “money, in-kind payments for luxury goods and services, and what he believed to be an economic interest in the mining company.”
     The complaint shows that Mebiame locked horns with the joint venture over his ownership interest in the mining company back in September 2009, threatening to “let the world know what kind of international crooks” the joint venture was unless he received what he was owed.
     Communicating in an email, Mebiame accused the joint venture of trying to “delete” his shares “to hide its illegal procedures to secure assets in Africa.”
     “You sistematicaly (sic) used corruption in Africa to get the assets you have,” the email continues, as quoted in the complaint against Mebiame.
     Prosecutors note that Mebiame continued to work for the joint venture for several more years after resolving this dispute.
     In August 2011, according to the complaint, Mebiame became a principal of Palm Island Residents, a Florida-based company. He then became managing member of SCI GEO LLC, also based in Florida.
     “Mebiame personally took numerous steps while in the United States … [by] sending and receiving email and other communications with coconspirators about the corrupt scheme, receiving payments related to the corrupt scheme into U.S. bank accounts he established and meeting with coconspirators to discuss the corrupt scheme,” the complaint says.
     The DOJ spokeswoman said Mebiame’s acting attorney for his next court appearance is Ben Tymann. Tymann did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

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