DOJ Indicts Two Former Diplomats from Chad for Taking a $2 Million Bribe
Over the last ten years, we have seen a steady increase in the coordination and cooperation among international prosecutors and law enforcement to prosecute bribery cases.
In a recent example, the Justice Department unsealed criminal charges against two former diplomats from Chad for taking a $2 million bribe from Griffiths Energy International, Inc., a Canadian energy company. The indictment was originally returned in 2019 and remained under seal until recently.
Mahomoud Adam Bechir was the former U.S. ambassador for Chad. Youssouf Hamid Takane was the former deputy chief of mission for Chad. The charges stem from a 2013 Canadian bribery prosecution against Griffiths Energy International, Inc.
Naeem Tyab, a Canadian national and original shareholder of Griffiths, and Mr. Bechir’s wife, Nouracham Bechir Niam, also were charged in the indictment. Mr. Tyab was arrested in New York in 2019 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA, and forfeited approximately $27 million.
Messrs. Bechir, Takane and Ms. Niam have not been apprehended.
Griffiths Energy paid a $10.35 million fine in 2013 to settle anti-bribery charges in Canada. Griffiths uncovered the bribery scheme when conducting due diligence prior to a public offering, and self-reported to Canadian prosecutors.
As alleged in the indictment, between 2009 and 2014, Messrs. Bechir and Takane, while serving as diplomats in Washington, D.C., demanded a bribe from Griffiths Energy in exchange for their influence with Chad’s government to secure oil rights in Chad.
Messrs. Bechir and Takane demanded a $2 million bribe and shares in the company, Griffiths Energy International.
Mr. Tyab, a Griffiths Energy director from 2009 to 2011, arranged for the bribe to be paid to Ms. Niam via a sham contract for consulting services. The payments were made to various shell companies registered in Ms. Niam’s name. Griffiths Energy also gave deeply discounted stock to Ms. Niam, to Takane and a third Canadian individual. Niam eventually sold the stock for $37 million when Griffiths Energy was acquired by Glencore International.
Griffiths Energy was awarded the oil exploration contract shortly after Bechir met with top Chadian officials at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The defendants were charged with money laundering and conspiracy charges. Niam and Tyab were also charged with FCPA conspiracy. The charges are the first brought in the United States related to separate prosecutions in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The SEC sought to clawback the $34 million of the stock value of the shares granted to Ms. Niam as part of the bribery scheme. That case is still pending.
The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office recovered $6.2 million from the diplomats in 2018.