How a Ghanaian banker paid $2.5m in bribes to MPs and Officials to Approve a Deal

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A bribery scheme has been uncovered showing how a Ghanaian and former banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc paid brides to politicians and civil servants to push through a deal to procure a power plant.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission uncovered the scheme fronted by Asante Berko, who worked as a vice president in the natural resources group of Goldman’s investment-banking division.

He is currently the Managing Director of the state-owned Tema Oil Refinery in Ghana.

Court documents revealed that he arranged the bribes on behalf of a Turkish energy company between 2015 and 2016.

Mr. Berko allegedly pushed the money through an intermediary company in Ghana which then paid the monies to MPs to approve the deal and also to engineers. Money was also allegedly paid to officials at the Energy ministry.

The court documents do not name government officials and the companies involved.

But part of the documents do reads:

“From approximately 2015 through at least 2016 (the “relevant period”), while employed at the Subsidiary [Goldman Sachs Group Inc], Berko schemed to bribe various government officials in the Republic of Ghana (“Ghana”) so that a client of the Subsidiary, a Turkish Energy Company (the “Energy Company”), would win a contract (the “Power Purchase Agreement”) to build and operate an electrical power plant in Ghana and sell the power to the Ghanaian government (the “Power Plant Project” or “Project”).”

At least $2.5million was paid out of the up to $4.5million earmarked for “orchestrating a bribery scheme.”

On July 17, 2015, the Ghanaian parliament ratified the Power Purchase Agreement. On July 20, 2015, the Intermediary Company requested, through Berko, that the Energy Company send it another $1.5 million for its “next crucial steps.” Those funds were to be used to bribe Ghanaian government officials and to advance the bribery scheme.

“By August 2015, Berko had paid bribes of at least $66,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials in his effort to obtain approval for the Power Plant Project.”

Court documents noted that “all or most of which was used to bribe Ghanaian government officials.”

Smaller bribes of about $210,000 was also paid to “various other government officials involved in the Power Plant Project.”

“These included bribes to a Ghanaian government official (“Government Official 2”) who assisted Government Official 1 on the Project, employees at the Ministry of Power who provided confidential information to the Intermediary Company concerning the Project, government engineers who assessed the Energy Company’s technology, and officials at other government agencies who reviewed the Project.”

For his work, the 46-year old Asante Berko got $2million, the court documents revealed. He has been charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC is seeking monetary penalties against Berko and other remedies, according to the statement.

Berko hid his misconduct from Goldman by misleading compliance personnel about the true role of the intermediary company that paid the bribes, the SEC said.

He resigned from at Goldman Sachs Group Inc in December 2016. But court documents say “following his departure from the Subsidiary, Berko began providing consulting services for the Energy Company.”

Mr. Berko was appointed Managing Director of the Tema Oil Refinery in January 2020.

Between 2013 and 2016, Ghana faced a crippling energy crisis, compelling the Mahama government to procure additional power-producing plants from Turkey and also UAE.

The government also entered into several power-purchase agreements to make up to inadequate supply from Ghana’s traditional sources in Takoradi, Kpong, Akosombo and Bui dams.

US SEC statement on bribery scandal

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged a former executive of a financial services company with orchestrating a bribery scheme to help a client to win a government contract to build and operate an electrical power plant in the Republic of Ghana in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Asante Berko, a former executive of a foreign-based subsidiary of a U.S. bank holding company, arranged for his firm’s client, a Turkish energy company, to funnel at least $2.5 million to a Ghana-based intermediary to pay illicit bribes to Ghanaian government officials in order to gain their approval of an electrical power plant project. The complaint further alleges that Berko helped the intermediary pay more than $200,000 in bribes to various other government officials, and Berko personally paid more than $60,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials. According to the complaint, Berko took deliberate measures to prevent his employer from detecting his bribery scheme, including misleading his employer’s compliance personnel about the true role and purpose of the intermediary company.

“As alleged in our complaint, Berko orchestrated a scheme to bribe high-level Ghanaian officials in pursuit of firm business and his own enrichment. Berko’s misconduct was egregious and individual accountability remains a key component to our FCPA enforcement efforts,” said Charles Cain, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit. “The firm’s compliance personnel took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction and it is not being charged.”

The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, charges Berko with violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and federal securities laws. The SEC is seeking monetary penalties against Berko among other remedies.

The SEC’s case is being handled by Asita Obeyesekere and Paul G. Block of the FCPA Unit and Kathleen Shields, Mark Albers, and Marty Healey of the Boston Regional Office.

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