Ex-Wall Street Banker Convicted in Guinea Bribery Case
A Guinea-born former Wall Street banker was convicted of laundering $8.5 million in bribes that he took while a government minister in the West African country, where claims of corruption and disputes over mineral rights involve some of the biggest mining companies in the world.
Mahmoud Thiam was accused in the U.S. of taking illegal payments to help China International Fund Ltd. win exclusive rights to mine Guinea’s iron, gold, diamonds and bauxite deposits and then laundering the money into the U.S. Thiam served as Guinea’s mining minister from 2009 to 2010 after spending 14 years as an international investment banker at Merrill Lynch & Co. and UBS Group AG in New York.
The jury in Manhattan federal court delivered its verdict Wednesday after about six hours of deliberations, following a six-day trial. Thiam faces as long as 10 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
Prosecutors claim Thiam used the bribes to pay for luxuries, including ski lessons, private school for his kids, a Steinway grand piano and renovations to a 30-acre estate in New York’s Dutchess County. Thiam, who testified in his own defense, said the money was a loan from China International Fund’s Sam Pa.
Bribery allegations have swirled over mineral development in Guinea for years. Rio Tinto Group accused billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s BSG Resources Ltd. of conspiring with Vale SA to steal the rights to an iron ore deposit in the country. That lawsuit was thrown out.
Steinmetz’s companies sued billionaire George Soros for $10 billion last month, claiming they lost the right to mine the Guinea resource because of a defamation campaign he ran against them.
China International Fund didn’t respond to emails seeking comment on the bribery allegations.
The case is U.S. v. Thiam, 16-mj-07960, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Bob Van Voris and Christian Berthelsen