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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Former Minister Of Mines For The Republic Of Guinea Charged With Receiving And Laundering $8.5 Million In Bribes From Chinese Companies

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Leslie R. Caldwell, the Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that MAHMOUD THIAM was arrested in Manhattan this morning on money laundering charges stemming from his scheme to launder $8.5 million in bribes that THIAM received from senior representatives of a Chinese conglomerate.  The charges allege that THIAM used his official position as Minister of Mines for the Republic of Guinea to facilitate the award to the Chinese conglomerate of exclusive and highly valuable investment rights in various sectors of the Guinean economy.  THIAM was presented today in Manhattan federal court before Magistrate Judge James C. Francis. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Mahmoud Thiam, a former high-ranking official of Guinea, allegedly used his position to accept millions in bribes from a Chinese conglomerate and laundered the money through New York.  Thiam, a U.S. citizen, will now face justice.” 

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said: “Former Minister Thiam is accused of enriching himself at the expense of the people of the Republic of Guinea. We cannot allow the United States to be a safe haven for the spoils of official corruption.  The department is committed to pursuing both those who pay bribes, and also the corrupt officials who receive them.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney, Jr. said: “Today’s action shows that the FBI, along with our partners, is committed to investigating all levels of corruption. The United States will be relentless in its efforts to uphold fair, equal and competitive markets.  The actions of a few who use corruption for personal gain will not be tolerated.”         

According to the Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

MAHMOUD THIAM, a United States citizen who was Minister of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Guinea in 2009 and 2010, engaged in a scheme to accept bribes from senior representatives of a Chinese conglomerate and to launder that money into the United States and elsewhere.  In exchange for these multimillion-dollar bribe payments, THIAM used his position as Minister of Mines to facilitate the award to the Chinese conglomerate of exclusive and highly valuable investment rights in a wide range of sectors of the Guinean economy, including near total control of Guinea’s significant mining sector.  

In order to receive the bribes covertly, THIAM opened a bank account in Hong Kong (the “Hong Kong Account”) and misreported his occupation to the Hong Kong bank to conceal his status as a public official in Guinea.  Upon receiving the bribes, THIAM transferred millions of dollars in bribe proceeds from the Hong Kong Account to, among other things, THIAM’s bank accounts in the United States; a Malaysian company that facilitated and concealed THIAM’s purchase of a $3,750,000 estate in Dutchess County, New York; private preparatory schools in Manhattan attended by THIAM’s children; and at least one other West African public official.   

To further conceal the unlawful source of the bribery proceeds that THIAM transferred from the Hong Kong Account to banks in the United States, THIAM lied to two banks based in Manhattan and on tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service regarding the bribe payments, his position as a foreign public official, and the source of the funds in the Hong Kong Account.  In total, THIAM received approximately $8.5 million in bribes from the Chinese conglomerate. 

*                *                *

THIAM, 50, of Manhattan, is charged with two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. 

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. 

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI. 

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Elisha J. Kobre and Assistant Chief Tarek Helou, Senior Trial Attorney Jason Linder and Trial Attorney Sarah Edwards of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are in charge of the prosecution.

 

[1] As the introductory phase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation. 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
16-336
Updated December 14, 2016