Och-Ziff’s Accused Fixer Revealed to Be in Plea Talksby
Mebiame arrested in August, has case delayed until October
U.S. has had five-year probe to see if hedge fund paid bribes
The son of a former Gabonese prime minister, who’s accused of working as a fixer for Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC to win mining deals in Africa, is in plea talks that may put a quick end to his case.
Samuel Mebiame’s prosecution was put on hold until October while he tries to negotiate a deal with the government, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak said at hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Thursday.
Mebiame, who has been in U.S. custody since his Aug. 16 arrest, worked for a joint venture formed in part by Och-Ziff, according to people familiar with the case. Mebiame, who allegedly earned at least $3.5 million, is accused of helping the hedge fund channel millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Niger, Guinea and Chad to secure lucrative mining contracts.
Och-Ziff hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing and the fund wasn’t named by the government in court papers. People familiar with the case identified the hedge fund as Och-Ziff. They spoke on a condition that they not be identified because the details aren’t public.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Loonam told Pollak that since his arrest, Mebiame hired a new defense attorney and asked for a delay until Oct. 15 "to engage in negotiations to see if this case can be resolved short of an indictment."
Mebiame, who was ordered held without bail because he was deemed a flight risk, agreed to the delay.
"The reason for the extension of time is that we have just been retained in the case and need an opportunity to speak with our client and the government to decide how best to proceed," Larry Krantz, Mebiame’s lawyer, said. He declined to say if his client plans to plead guilty.
Authorities, including federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, the Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission, have been digging into a web of complex oil and mining deals funded by Och-Ziff in Africa for five years, examining whether it paid bribes to government officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya.
Och-Ziff, founded and run by Daniel Och, said last month that it had earmarked $414 million to resolve the investigation. Talks with the U.S. are in advanced stages, the company said.