A former banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. arranged for millions of dollars in bribes to be paid to government officials in Ghana to help a client win a power-plant contract, U.S. regulators said Monday in a civil lawsuit.
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, funneled money to an intermediary, which then paid bribes to Ghanaian officials.
Mr. Berko, who left Goldman Sachs in 2016, also personally paid bribes totaling $66,000 to members of the Ghanaian parliament and other government officials, the SEC alleges.
An attorney for Mr. 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. 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. 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. Berko to pay fines and give back any compensation he earned through the scheme.