The son of a former prime minister of Gabon pleaded guilty in a US federal court on Friday to bribing African officials to win mining rights in a case connected to New York hedge fund Och-Ziff.
Och-Ziff in September reached a $413m settlement with the US Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges it bribed officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya and other African countries.
The Justice Department said that between 2007 and 2012, Samuel Mebiame, 43, worked as a consultant to a mining company owned by a joint venture involving Och-Ziff, and conspired to pay bribes to high-level government officials in Chad in Niger to win business and mineral rights.
Among other allegations, prosecutors say Mebiame paid $3m in bribes to a high-ranking government official in Niger, also helping pay for luxury cars. In return, the joint venture obtained uranium concessions.
In Chad, Mebiame’s bribes of cash payments and luxury travel helped win an asset the government had stripped from a French company.
Leon Mebiame, Samuel’s father, was primer minister of Gabon from 1975 to 1990.
As part of September’s settlement, an Och-Ziff Africa subsidiary pleaded guilty to a count of bribery in DRC and is due to be sentenced in March. Two of the firm’s founders, Daniel Och and Joel Frank, agreed to settle civil charges brought by the SEC without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations.
In 1977, the United States criminalized the paying of bribes to foreign officials to win business and other developed nations have followed suit but have not punished foreign bribery at comparable rates.