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Press Release

Former Minister Of Mines For The Republic Of Guinea Sentenced To 7 Years In Prison For Receiving And Laundering $8.5 Million In Bribes From Chinese Companies

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Kenneth A. Blanco, the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, announced that MAHMOUD THIAM was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to seven years in prison by U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote, for his scheme to launder $8.5 million in bribes that THIAM received from senior representatives of a Chinese conglomerate.  THIAM received the bribes in exchange for using 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 found guilty on May 3, 2017, following a seven-day trial, of two counts of money laundering.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “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.  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 a long federal prison term.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said: “Mahmoud Thiam engaged in a corrupt scheme to benefit himself at the expense of the people of Guinea. 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. 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 the allegations in the Indictment, other filings in Manhattan federal court, and the evidence admitted at trial:

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 others, 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. 

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In addition to the prison term, THIAM, 50, of Manhattan, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $8.5 million.

Mr. Kim praised and thanked the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its outstanding investigative work.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance in this matter. The Office is grateful to the government of Guinea for providing substantial assistance in gathering evidence during this investigation.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Elisha J. Kobre and Christopher J. DiMase and Trial Attorney Lorinda I. Laryea of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated August 25, 2017

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 17-274