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US SEC charges former banker for bribes to Ghana officials

THE US securities regulator on Monday charged a former banker at a subsidiary of a US bank for arranging at least $2.5 million in bribes to be paid to Ghana government officials to gain approval for a client’s power plant project.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said that Asante Berko arranged the bribes for a Turkish energy company to funnel the money to a Ghana-based intermediary, which then paid the local officials.

The Wall Street Journal reported the news earlier in the day and said that Berko was a former banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. He is currently the boss of the state-owned Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) in Ghana.

Goldman Sachs, which was not named in the SEC lawsuit, terminated its involvement with the project after the energy company refused to explain the intermediary firm’s role, the report said.

‘Goldman Sachs fully cooperated with the SEC’s investigation and as stated by the SEC in its press release, the firm’s compliance personnel took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction,’ the WSJ report added citing Nicole Sharp, a spokeswoman for Goldman.

Berko helped the Ghana-based intermediary pay more than $200,000 in bribes to various other government officials, and personally paid more than $60,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials, the SEC statement said, adding that Berko took deliberate measures to prevent his employer from detecting the bribery scheme.

The regulator filed the complaint in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York and is seeking monetary penalties, among other remedies, against Berko.

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