Prime News Ghana

Current MD for TOR charged by U.S SEC for alleged FCPA breaches

By Justice Kofi Bimpeh
Managing Director for Tema Oil Refinery, TOR, Asante Berko
Managing Director for Tema Oil Refinery, TOR, Asante Berko
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The current Managing Director for Tema Oil Refinery, TOR, Mr Kweku Asante Berko has been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), of the United States of America for breaching the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FCPA.

Asante Berko, until his appointment as the Managing Director of TOR, was a banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

According to reports from the US Regulators and information from a civil suit sighted by Prime News Ghana, he made arrangements for sums of money, amounting in millions of dollars as bribes to be paid to some Ghanaian government officials to help a client win a power-plant contract in Ghana.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Asante Berko, a former executive at Goldman's London subsidiary, facilitated as much as $4.5 million in bribes to help a Turkish energy company win a contract to build a power plant. The SEC says the energy company, which wasn't named, funnelled money to an intermediary, which then paid bribes to Ghanaian government officials.

Mr. Berko also personally paid bribes totalling $66,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials, the SEC alleges. The said bribery transaction occured within a period from 2015 to sometime in 2016.

An attorney for Mr. Asante Berko declined to comment on the lawsuit, which accuses Mr. Berko of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That law bars individuals and companies from giving anything of value to overseas officials to win business.

The SEC said in a press release that Mr. Berko tried to hide the scheme from the bank, whose compliance officers questioned how the deal was put together. Goldman, which wasn't named in the SEC's lawsuit, terminated its involvement with the project after the energy company refused to explain the intermediary firm's role, the SEC's legal complaint says.

"Goldman Sachs fully cooperated with the SEC's investigation and as stated by the SEC in its press release, the firm's compliance personnel took appropriate steps to prevent the firm from participating in the transaction," said Nicole Sharp, a spokeswoman for Goldman.

The energy company paid Mr. Asante Berko $2 million for successfully coordinating the effort, the SEC alleges. The payments violated Mr. Berko's employment agreement with the bank, the SEC's lawsuit says.

Mr. Asante Berko knew the bank stood to earn $10 million in fees if the energy company won the contract and organized financing for it, the lawsuit alleges. The deal would have "enhanced Berko's performance and stature within" the bank, according to the SEC's complaint.

In the suit, which was filed in Brooklyn federal court, the SEC asks for Mr. Asante Berko to pay fines and give back any compensation he earned through the scheme.

Mr. Asante Berko resigned from his position at Goldman Sachs in 2016 and was appointed as the Managing Director for Tema Oil Refinery, TOR. Mr Asante K. Berko succeeded Isaac Osei who served as Managing Director for TOR from 2017 to 2019. Mr Isaac Osei was alleged to have resigned his position due to his objection to some transactions involving TOR that he wasn't comfortable with.

Before Asante Berko's appointment at TOR, he worked at a number multinational financial institutions and accounting and auditing firms including Barclays Capital/ Absa Capital, Credit-Suisse, Ernst & Young, LLP and Goldman Sachs International, London, where he last served as an Executive Director.