U.S. Case Into Fixer for Och-Ziff Venture Gets Support in Guinea

  • Samuel Mebiame arrested by U.S. authorities on Tuesday
  • U.S. prosecutors allege Mebiame bribed Guinean officials

One of the countries where U.S. prosecutors say a fixer for an African venture by Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC paid bribes said it will cooperate with the investigation.

Samuel Mebiame, who worked for Och-Ziff’s Africa Management Ltd., was arrested in the U.S. on Tuesday and faces charges for bribes he allegedly paid on behalf of the company in Guinea, Niger and Chad.

Guinea’s government and criminal-justice authorities “are following the Samuel Mebiame matter closely and will conduct all necessary investigations to support U.S. authorities in shedding light on the allegations that relate to Guinea,” the government said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. “In light of the pending investigation, there will be no further public comment at this stage.”

New York hedge fund manager Och-Ziff this month set aside $414 million to settle the five-year investigation into whether it paid bribes in Africa. As well as garnering an investment from Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, Och-Ziff invested in oil and mineral projects across the continent.

Mebiame and a co-conspirator were involved in rewriting Guinea’s mining law during current President Alpha Conde’s rule, according to the complaint filed by prosecutors. They also drafted letters for the government to put on official stationery and send to rival mining companies.

Mebiame and his partner lent Conde’s government $25 million in 2011 with a view to setting up a partnership with a state-owned mining company, but media attention of the transaction prompted them to repay it within a year, according to the prosecutors.

The co-conspirator is South African Walter Hennig, according to a person with knowledge of the case. Hennig has not responded to requests for comment.

Ben Tymann, an attorney representing Mebiame, declined to comment on the charges. Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for Och-Ziff, has declined to comment.

The case is U.S. v. Mebiame, 16-mj-752, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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