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Issue 309 - 08 October 2015

SEC, DoJ probe Kinross Gold

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Kinross Gold Corporation has said it is under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice (DoJ) over its West Africa mining operations. The company said it had received SEC and DoJ subpoenas related to possible internal control deficiencies and improper payments to government officials.Toronto-based Kinross, which has mining operations in Mauritania and Ghana, said it first learned of the allegations in 2013 and launched an internal investigation. It subsequently received subpoenas from the SEC in March and December 2014, and July 2015, and from the DoJ in December 2014.

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The UK’s Serious Fraud Office said on 31 July that it had opened an investigation into Soma Oil & Gas in relation to allegations of corruption in Somalia. The investigation follows a report by the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group to the Security Council which said that Soma had been making regular payments to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources since mid-2014, some to senior civil servants who were instrumental in securing the company’s initial contract and negotiating subsequent agreements. Soma said it was confident that there was no basis to the allegations and it was co-operating fully with the SFO.

Somalia
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Bids were due by 15 May for a European Development Fund-financed programme to improve the corporate governance of power utility Zesco. Zesco has obtained European Investment Bank funding for two projects – upgrading the existing 220kV Kafue-Muzuma-Livingstone transmission line to 330 kV, and the Itezhi Tezhi hydro project and related transmission infrastructure. According to the tender notice: “Zesco has expressed its desire and commitment to strengthen good corporate governance and compliance procedures within the company.” The winning consultant will help the utility develop and implement a corporate governance framework.

Zambia
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Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz’s BSG Resources (BSGR) is preparing arbitration proceedings against the government of Guinea and President Alpha Condé, after Conakry revoked its licence for the Simandou iron ore deposit. BSGR said in a statement that it was initiating arbitration with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Guinea stripped BSGR and its joint venture partner Vale of their rights to part of Simandou in April after a government committee concluded that BSGR had paid bribes. BSGR has denied any wrongdoing.

Guinea
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The government launched an anti-corruption initiative in late April backed by the country’s inspector general, Hassan Sultan. “From the public procurement process to electoral reform and international co-operation, corruption can have a negative impact on a wide range of important functions of the state, and it is our responsibility to eradicate it wherever it is found,” he said. The launch came a few days before Sultan travelled to London for the UK-Djibouti Trade and Investment Forum.

Djibouti
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The High Court has dismissed with costs a case brought by Arandis Energy against Xaris Energy over a controversial tender for a 250MW gas power project. Acting judge Collins Parker ruled that there had been an unreasonable delay in making the application, which was submitted 16 months after NamPower selected Xaris as preferred bidder. Arandis had argued that the delay was justified because mines and energy minister Obeth Kandjoze had begun an investigation into the tendering process in April 2015 and the company was awaiting the result. But Parker ruled that accepting this argument “would be setting a very dangerous precedent”.

Namibia
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Switzerland’s Federal Council on 22 May opened a consultation procedure (due to end 12 September 2013) on the preliminary draft of the Federal Act on the Freezing and Restitution of Assets of Politically Exposed Persons obtained by Unlawful Means. The new law would allow Switzerland to freeze the assets of politically exposed persons (PEPs) and would set up a framework to confiscate and return assets to the countries from which they were taken.

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The New York-based Revenue Watch Institute has given a positive assessment of Ghana’s Stabilisation Fund and Heritage Fund, saying they met 13 of 16 good governance fundamentals. The two funds, established under the Petroleum Revenue Management Act of March 2011, were described as featuring” clear deposit, withdrawal and investment rules, effective oversight, and other essential attributes of good governance”. The government published a reconciliation report in March this year detailing the sums passing through the Petroleum Holding Fund, from where oil money is allocated to Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, the annual budget, and the two petroleum funds.

Ghana
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While much of the world was distracted by Donald Trump’s election in the US, Rio Tinto announced on 9 November that it had suspended energy and minerals head Alan Davies and accepted the resignation of legal and regulatory affairs executive Debra Valentine after discovering $10.5m in payments to a French adviser to Guinean President Alpha Condé.Rio said it had launched an investigation and alerted regulators after becoming aware on 29 August of emails from 2011 that referred to contractual payments to an unidentified consultant relating to its Simandou iron ore project.

Guinea
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Anti-corruption campaigners including the London-based NGO Corruption Watch and Angola’s Associação Mãos Livres, have called on the Swiss government to reopen an investigation into a 1990s debt repayment deal between Angola and Russia. Corruption Watch, run by the former African National Congress MP Andrew Feinstein, released a 166-page report, ‘Deception in High Places: The Corrupt Angola-Russia Debt Deal’, on 16 April detailing how more than $700m ended up in private hands following a mid-1990s restructuring of Angolan debt to Russia. The report was presented in the European Parliament on 23 April as an example of the plundering that can take place in developing nations with the complicity of European banks and tax havens.

Angola
Issue 267 - 05 December 2013

Corporate: Asset recovery highlighted

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An extensive World Bank study, Left out of the Bargain - Settlements in Foreign Bribery Cases and Implications for Asset Recovery, has found that from1999-mid 2012 395 enforcement settlements for corruption took place, raising $6.9bn. But just 3.3% ($197m) was returned to the countries where the crime took place. The report highlights the tricky issue of how international anti-corruption enforcement can best repatriate. tainted assets and proceeds to the victim countries in line with Chapter 5 of United Nations Convention against Corruption. The study also notes some cases where companies have been told to pay fines to the countries concerned but have failed to do so – for example construction firm Mabey & Johnson, which was caught paying bribes to Iraqi officials in Ghana and Jamaica.

Ghana
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In her final report as public protector, Thuli Madonsela has documented evidence surrounding the relationship of national utility Eskom and its senior leadership with the influential Gupta family. The report – entitled State of Capture – outlines alleged improper conduct by President Jacob Zuma and other state officials in their dealings with the Guptas – Indian-born brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh (‘Tony’) – which may have led to the removal and appointment of ministers and officials at state-owned enterprises with the intention of awarding contracts to benefit Gupta businesses.

South Africa
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The government has included anti-bribery provisions in four out of six petroleum agreements (PAs) currently before parliament for approval. “We are encouraged that PAs for the first time in Ghana’s history contain provisions that shun corruption especially through bribery or any inducement of public officials, politicians and political parties,” the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (Acep) think tank said in a statement. A new clause requires companies to certify compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the UK Bribery Act, and the anti-bribery convention of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Ghana
Issue 260 - 09 August 2013

Saipem: Corporate governance


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Italian engineering company Saipem, 42% owned by Eni, appointed a corporate governance veteran to its board in late July. The new deputy chairman and non-executive director is Piergaetano Marchetti, a lawyer and professor emeritus in commercial law at the University of Milan. “Marchetti is an expert on corporate governance and will bring great depth of expertise,” said Saipem chief executive Umberto Vergine. Saipem is embroiled in a corruption investigation in Algeria and on 30 July announced a Q2 13 net loss of €685m ($911m) and an operating loss of €670m as revenue slipped 36% to €2.10bn.

Algeria
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Canada’s troubled SNC-Lavalin has been hit with a Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgrade as the ratings agency warned of the risk of weaker profit in the wake of corruption scandals surrounding the firm’s operations in Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Bangladesh. S&P cut its ratings from BBB+ to BBB with negative outlook.