Former Guinean Minister of Mines Convicted of Receiving and Laundering $8.5 Million in Bribes from China International Fund and China Sonangol
A federal jury found the former Minister of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Guinea, guilty for his role in a scheme to launder bribes paid to him by executives of China Sonangol International Ltd. and China International Fund, SA.
The jury reached its verdict Wednesday after five hours of deliberations, following a seven-day trial.
Mahmoud Thiam, 50, of New York, was convicted of one count of transacting in criminally derived property and one count of money laundering.
According to the charges, the funds that were laundered were proceeds derived through violations of Guinean bribery laws.
“As a high-level Minister in Guinea, Thiam sold out his country and then used U.S. banks and real estate to hide millions in bribes paid to him by a Chinese conglomerate,” said Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kenneth Blanco. “Corruption is a global disease that undermines the rule of law everywhere. The Justice Department is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who commit these crimes and use the U.S. financial system and free marketplace to conceal and benefit from their crimes.”
Thiam remains in custody. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 17.
“As a New York federal jury has now found, Thiam abused his official government position to enrich himself at the expense of one of Africa’s poorest countries,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim of New York.
Adding, “Thiam laundered the proceeds of his bribery scheme into the United States to fund his lavish lifestyle, buying a multi-million dollar estate in Dutchess County, and paying for private schools for his children. Thanks to the work of the FBI, Thiam’s scheme was exposed and he was swiftly convicted.”
According to the evidence, China Sonangol, China International, and their subsidiaries signed a series of agreements with Guinea.
This gave them lucrative mining rights in Guinea, and Thiam influenced the Guinean government’s decision to enter into those agreements while serving as Guinea’s Minister of Mines and Geology from 2009 to 2010.
The evidence showed that Thiam participated in a scheme to launder money from 2009 to 2011, during which time China Sonangol and China International paid him $8.5 million to a bank account in Hong Kong.
Thiam then transferred approximately $3.9 million to the U.S. through bank accounts and other ways and used the money to pay for luxury goods and other expenses, according to trial evidence.
To conceal the bribe payments, Thiam falsely claimed to banks in Hong Kong and the U.S. that he was a consultant. He also said that the money was income from the sale of land which he earned before he was a minister, according to the evidence.
The purpose of the bribes, according to the evidence, was to get substantial rights and interests in natural resources in Guinea, including the right to be the first and strategic shareholder with Guinea of a national mining company into which Guinea had to, among other things, transfer all of its stakes in various mining projects and future mining permits or concessions that the government decided to develop on its own.
China Sonangol and China International, through their subsidiaries, also obtained exclusive and valuable rights to conduct business operations in a broad range of sectors of the Guinean economy, including mining, according to the trial evidence.