Saturday, August 26, 2017

Corruption: You can’t go scot free anymore - US warns African looters


The United States has sent a strong warning to corrupt African political office holders, who illegally enrich themselves at the expense of their people, that “if they attempt to use the U.S. financial system to hide their bribe money they will be investigated, held accountable, and punished.”

The warning was given by US Department of Justice after a New York court jailed Mahmoud Thiam, a 50-year-old former minister of mines and geology of the Republic of Guinea.

A statement by the US Department of Justice said Thiam “was sentenced today (Friday, August 25, 2017) to seven years in prison, and three years of supervised release, for laundering bribes paid to him by executives of China Sonangol International Ltd. (China Sonangol) and China International Fund, SA (CIF).”

“Today’s sentence sends a strong message to corrupt individuals like Thiam that if they attempt to use the U.S. financial system to hide their bribe money they will be investigated, held accountable, and punished,” according to Acting Assistant Attorney General  Kenneth Blanco of the Department of Justice Criminal Division.

“Mahmoud Thiam engaged in a corrupt scheme to benefit himself at the expense of the people of Guinea,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. 

“Corruption is a cancer on society that destabilizes institutions, inhibits fair and free competition, and imposes significant burdens on ordinary law-abiding people just trying to live their everyday lives. 

“As a unanimous jury found at trial, Thiam abused his position as Guinea’s Minister of Mines to take millions in bribes from a Chinese conglomerate, and then launder that money through the American financial system,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim. 

“Enriching himself at the expense of one Africa’s poorest countries, Thiam used some of the Chinese bribe money to pay his children’s Manhattan private school tuition and to buy a $3.75 million estate in Dutchess County. Today’s sentence shows that if you send your crime proceeds to New York, whether from drug dealing, tax evasion or international bribery, you may very well find yourself at the front end of long federal prison term.”

"Thiam abused his official position, but the outcome shows that no one is above the law," said Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson. "The FBI will not stand by while individuals attempt to live by their own rules and use the United States as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains. I would like to applaud the dedicated investigators and prosecutors who have worked to hold those who have committed these crimes accountable for their illegal actions.”

“Today’s sentencing should remind the public that no matter who you are, or how much money you have, you’re not immune from prosecution.  The FBI will continue to use all resources at our disposal to uncover crimes of this nature and expose them for what they really are,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney.”

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