FROM: U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Friday, November 7, 2014
Department of Justice Seeks Recovery of Approximately $100,000 in Bribes Paid to Former Chad Ambassador
The Department of Justice has filed a civil forfeiture complaint made public late yesterday seeking the forfeiture of $106,488.31 in allegedly laundered funds traceable to a $2 million bribe payment made by a Canadian energy company to Chad’s former Ambassador to the United States and Canada and his wife.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.
From 2004 to 2012, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, 49, served as Chad’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada. According to the forfeiture complaint, Bechir agreed to use his position to influence the award of oil development rights in Chad in exchange for $2 million and other valuable interests from Griffiths Energy International Inc., a Canadian company. In order to conceal the bribe, Bechir and his wife, Nouracham Niam, 44, allegedly entered into a series of agreements with Griffiths Energy that provided for the payment of a $2 million “consulting fee” if the company secured the oil rights in Chad. After securing these oil rights in February 2011, Griffiths Energy allegedly transferred $2 million to an account located in Washington, D.C. held by a shell company created by Niam. In 2013, Griffiths Energy pleaded guilty in Canadian court to bribing Bechir.
The complaint further alleges that, after commingling the bribe payment with other funds and laundering these funds through U.S. bank accounts and real property, Bechir transferred $1,474,517 of the criminal proceeds traceable to the bribe payment to his account in South Africa, where he is now serving Chad’s Ambassador to South Africa. The current action seeks forfeiture of $106,488.31, which is the current balance of Bechir’s accounts in South Africa. Those funds have been seized pursuant to the complaint unsealed today. The Department of Justice is also seeking additional assets from Bechir and Niam.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI. The case is being handled by Trial Attorney Nalina Sombuntham of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.
This case was brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, working in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, return those proceeds to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office.