“Holy rain” bribes secured Ghana work, SEC alleges

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged a former Goldman Sachs official with paying bribes in Ghana in order to win work on the construction of a power plant, for a Turkish company.

The SEC said Asante Berko had arranged for the payment of at least $2.5 million in illicit bribes to Ghanaian government officials, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The US agency said Berko had helped an intermediary pay more than $200,000 in bribes to officials, while also paying more than $60,000 personally to Ghanaian MPs and other officials. Berko was said to have taken “deliberate measures to prevent his employer from detecting his bribery scheme, including misleading his employer’s compliance personnel about the true role and purpose of the intermediary company”.

The SEC complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, charged Berko with violating Section 30A of the Securities Exchange Act. The agency said it was seeking “monetary penalties” in addition to other sanctions.

It did not name the Istanbul-listed energy company that Berko had worked on behalf of, or his employer. Berko was appointed to the post of managing director at Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) in January this year.

Berko was accused of having arranged for the Turkish company to pay $3-4.5mn to an intermediary company, which went on to pay the bribes. The timing of the cash transfers occurred at the same time as major milestones in the approval process, the SEC said.

A power purchase agreement was signed in May 2015, at a point when the energy company transferred $1.5mn to the intermediary. Another $1.5mn was requested in July that year following ratification.

Berko was set to benefit as result of a bonus paid for success, via his employer, but he also received $2mn direct.

Despite his efforts to evade internal compliance, an investigation was launched internally in March 2016. This led to his employer halting its work on the project in August that year. Berko left his employer and carried on consulting for the energy company.

Goldman Sachs owned a stake in the energy company from 2012 until 2018.

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