×

Gabonese man linked to Och-Ziff bribe scheme sentenced to two years

May 31 (Reuters) - A Gabonese man who prosecutors say acted as a "fixer" helping a joint venture involving the hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC bribe government officials in African countries was sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday.

Samuel Mebiame, 43, pleaded guilty in December of conspiring to violate U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He admitted that he took part in a scheme to bribe officials in exchange for business opportunities, including a mining contract.

A criminal complaint said that Mebiame supplied cash and cars to two officials in Niger; an S-Class Mercedes Benz sedan and rented private Airbus jet to a Guinean official; and travel and shopping expenses for an adviser to Chad's president.

Mebiame was paid at least $3.5 million through 2012 for his work, the complaint said.

Mebiame, son of the late former Gabon Prime Minister Leon Mebiame, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said.

Prosecutors have said that Mebiame worked as a "fixer" for a mining company owned by a joint venture between Och-Ziff and an entity incorporated in the Turks and Caicos Islands. While court papers do not identify the joint venture, its description matches one Och-Ziff formed with Palladino Holdings Ltd, an investment vehicle founded by South African businessman Walter Hennig.

Och-Ziff and its chief executive, Daniel Och, agreed last September to pay $412 million and $2.17 million, respectively, to resolve U.S. investigations of the hedge fund's role in bribing officials in several African countries.

That settlement led to a subsidiary of Och-Ziff pleading guilty to participating in a scheme to bribe officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in what prosecutors said was the first U.S. foreign bribery case against a hedge fund.

In January, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a new lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court accusing two former Och-Ziff executives of overseeing tens of millions of dollars in bribe payments to African officials. The lawsuit has yet to be resolved. (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Grant McCool)