Uncle Sam seeks forfeiture of $34 million in bribes to Chad’s Ambassador by engineering company

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint today seeking the civil forfeiture of approximately $34 million, which represents the cash value of shares in Griffiths Energy International, a Canadian energy company that the company used to bribe Chad’s former Ambassador to the United States and Canada for the purpose of influencing the award of oil development rights.

From 2004 to 2012, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, 50, served as Chad’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada. From approximately 2007 to 2015, Youssouf Hamid Takane, 52, was the Deputy Chief of Mission. As alleged in the complaint, in 2009, Bechir and Takane agreed to use their official positions to influence the award of oil development rights in Chad to Griffiths Energy International Inc., a Canadian oil company, in exchange for shares in the company. Thereafter, in or about October 2009, Griffiths Energy issued four million shares to the wives of Bechir and Takane and to another associate.

The complaint also says that Griffiths Energy agreed with Bechir and his wife that the company would pay a $2 million “consulting fee” to Bechir’s wife to influence the award of oil development rights in Chad. After securing the desired oil development rights in February 2011, Griffiths Energy allegedly transferred $2 million to an account held by a shell company created by Bechir’s wife. This bribe payment was commingled and laundered through U.S. bank accounts and real property, and eventually was transferred to Bechir’s bank account in South Africa, where he is now serving as Chad’s Ambassador. In 2013, Griffiths Energy pleaded guilty in Canadian court to bribing Bechir.

The $34 million that the United States seeks in forfeiture represents the cash value of the four million shares in Griffiths Energy that were provided to the wives of Bechir and Takane and to their associate.

Payment of bribes to officials of foreign nations or their family or other connected persons to obtain business, is a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and The False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows private citizens with knowledge of such foreign bribes to file a lawsuit for the Government, to collect a percentage of what the Government recovers. In addition, whistleblowers have special protections under this law.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers