Tuesday, August 16, 2016

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Bribery Arrest May Expose African Mining Rights Scandal Tied to Och-Ziff

Any settlement between the government and Och-Ziff would be a step toward putting the long-running investigation — which has rattled investors — behind the hedge fund. Founded in 1994 by Mr. Och, a former Goldman Sachs executive, the firm was one of the first hedge funds to publicly list itself in 2007. It manages money for large pension funds and other institutional investors.

African officials say the arrest of a Gabonese man on bribery charges may help pull back the curtain on a long-running foreign corruption scandal that has ensnared the giant hedge fund founded by Daniel Och.

United States authorities on Tuesday arrested Samuel Mebiame, a consultant who worked for a joint venture involving Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, on charges that he paid bribes to foreign officials to secure mineral concessions in at least three African countries.

Prosecutors described Mr. Mebiame, the son of a former prime minister of Gabon, as a “fixer” who routinely paid bribes to officials in Niger, Guinea and Chad, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

Mr. Mebiame, 43, was arrested by F.B.I. agents in Brooklyn.

Och-Ziff, which manages more than $39 billion in assets, was not identified by name in the complaint, which instead refers to a “U.S.-based hedge fund.”

But two people briefed on the matter, who were not authorized to discuss it publicly, confirmed that the hedge fund was Och-Ziff.

The hedge fund has previously disclosed that it is the focus of a foreign bribery investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over whether it paid bribes in Zimbabwe, Congo and Libya. Earlier this month, Och-Ziff said it “believes that the government will pursue civil and criminal sanctions.”

Mr. Mebiame worked as a consultant for a joint venture between Och-Ziff and an incorporated company in the Turks and Caicos Islands, often using the offshore company as the conduit for paying officials.

At times, Mr. Mebiame was brazen in making sure he got his cut of the deals he undertook on behalf of Och-Ziff and the Turks and Caicos company, once threatening to go to the news media over “illegal procedures to secure assets in Africa.” He added that he would “let the world know what kind of international crooks you are.”