President Jacob Zuma receives the letter of credence presented to him by ambassador Mahamoud Adam Bechir from the embassy of Chad at the Credentials Ceremony held at the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria in this file picture.
President Jacob Zuma receives the letter of credence presented to him by ambassador Mahamoud Adam Bechir from the embassy of Chad at the Credentials Ceremony held at the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria in this file picture.

Chad’s envoy to SA linked to bribe case

By Jan Cronje Time of article published Jul 26, 2015

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 Cape Town - Chadian ambassador to South Africa Mahamoud Adam Bechir has been linked by the FBI to a R429 million bribery case involving a Canadian oil company

The US Department of Justice has filed a complaint in a federal court in the District of Columbia seeking forfeiture of $34 million (R429m) it alleges represented the cash value in shares given by Griffiths Energy International to Bechir and associates.

Bechir was Chad’s ambassador to the US and Canada from 2004 to 2012.

He was then deployed to South Africa and is listed on the Chadian embassy’s internet site as the serving envoy.

This is confirmed on the Department of International Relations’ website, which says he received accreditation as the ambassador in February 2012.

The US Department of Justice alleges that Griffiths Energy awarded the shares to Bechir and his associates at a nominal cost to influence the awarding to the company “of lucrative oil development rights in Chad”.

Several efforts to gain comment from the Chadian embassy in South Africa this week went unanswered.

Bechir has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, said South Africa could not comment as the forfeiture complaint was filed in a US court and featured a diplomat from a foreign country.

The US complaint says Bechir and close associates received 4 million shares from the founders of Griffiths Energy in 2009 to 2011.

In 2013, Griffiths Energy pleaded guilty in a Canadian court to bribing Bechir, and was ordered to pay C$10.35m.

American officials say 1 600 000 shares were issued to Bechir’s wife, Nouraeham Bechir Niam, for a nominal fee, 1 600 000 to his “associate” Adoum Hassan, and 800 000 to one Ikram Mahamat Saleh.

Saleh is the wife of Youssuf Mahmoud Takane, who was Chad’s deputy chief of mission to the US under Bechir.

The US authorities allege Hassan’s shares were later transferred to the Chadian ambassador’s wife and that by last year Niam then held 3 200 000 shares and Saleh 800 000.

By then Griffiths Energy had become Caracal Energy.

Later last year, when Caracal was taken over by Glencore Xstrata, the shares were liquidated at a price of £5.50 eache

“The value of the 3 200 000 shares held by Niam is now about £17.6m and the value of the 800 000 held by Saleh is about £4.4m,” the complaint says.

A Glencore spokesman told the Wall Street Journal the events “took place prior to Glencore’s acquisition of Caracal”.

The US Department of Justice further alleges Griffiths Energy agreed with Bechir and his wife it would pay a $2m ”consulting fee” to Bechir’s wife to influence the award of oil development rights.

“After securing the desired oil development rights in February 2011, Griffiths Energy allegedly transferred $2m to an account held by a shell company created by Bechir’s wife.”

Weekend Argus

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