Ex-CEO of TOR, Asante Berko, arrested in US over alleged bribery scheme


Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Asante Berko was arrested on charges that he orchestrated bribes to Ghanaian officials while employed at the investment bank, Bloomberg has reported.

A six-count August 2020 indictment unsealed last week in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, accuses Berko of conspiring with at least two Ghanaian officials and four others in a bribery scheme that benefited Goldman, himself and a Turkish energy company that sought to build a power plant in the African nation.

Asante Berko was previously sued by the SEC over same conduct.
Foreign bribery charges unsealed after the case were filed in 2020.

In June 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mr Berko had settled a claim by U.S. regulators that he arranged for millions of dollars in bribes to be paid to government officials in Ghana to help a client win a power-plant contract.

Mr Berko was to pay about $329,000 to resolve the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s case without admitting or denying the regulator’s allegations, according to court filings.

The penalty represented what regulators say were the net profits he gained as a result of the alleged bribery scheme, plus interest.

“Mr Berko is pleased to put this matter behind him,” said his lawyer, Carl Loewenson Jr., a partner at the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP, at the time.

The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Berko was charged by the SEC in an April 2020 civil lawsuit with facilitating as much as $4.5 million in bribes to help a Turkish energy company win a contract to build the power plant in Ghana. He personally paid at least $66,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament, according to the SEC’s lawsuit, which accused him of violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
A person with knowledge of the case said the company involved was Turkish energy company Aksa Energy. The SEC said the Istanbul-based company funnelled money to an intermediary, which then paid bribes to Ghanaian officials. The company didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Mr Berko, a U.S. citizen who left Goldman Sachs in 2016, tried to hide the scheme from Goldman’s compliance officers, according to the SEC’s lawsuit. The bank, which wasn’t named in court filings, ended its involvement with the project after the Turkish company refused to explain the intermediary firm’s role, the SEC said.

A Goldman Sachs spokeswoman said the bank fully cooperated with the SEC investigation, adding that the commission at the time noted the bank’s compliance personnel took “appropriate steps.”

The penalty agreed upon by the SEC and Mr Berko on Wednesday represents a significant step back from what the regulator said should be imposed at the time its civil lawsuit was filed.

In a complaint filed in 2020, the SEC had said that the former Goldman banker should pay a civil penalty, along with disgorgement of gains from the alleged scheme and interest. The settlement reached on Wednesday didn’t include a civil penalty. with files from Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal

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