Disgraced Former TOR Boss Denies Bribing Mahama Gov’t Officials

A former Managing Director of the Tema Oil Refinery, Asante Berko, has denied ever paying bribes to officials of the John Mahama administration as claimed by the US Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC) in 2020.

According to the embattled Mr. Berko, caught in the tumultuous allegations that cost him his job as MD for TOR, he never paid any official of the Mahama administration, neither did he pay bribes to officials of the current New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration as claimed by US prosecutors.

In June 2021, Mr. Berko paid the SEC about $329,000 to resolve the case in which he is said to have used his position as an employee of Goldman Sachs to distribute bribes to Ghanaian government officials and MPs to facilitate an emergency power contract for a client.

The man who is believed to have bankrolled the Akufo-Addo’s election campaigns in 2016 and 2020, was accused by the US SEC of distributing bribes of up to US$2.5million to MPs and government officials between 2015 and 2016.

However, it has been suggested that Berko, who had allegedly continued with the bribe distribution even after his company, Goldman Sachs, had walked out of the deal over its shadiness, may have kept the money to himself and pretended to have distributed it.

At the time, the Mahama government was racing against time to tackle the country’s debilitating power outages (dumsor) and the desperation opened it up to all sorts of questionable deals, critics have noted.

One of such deals is the one brokered by Berko, whom the US SEC said had distributed the bribes to intermediaries who then had shared the money to MPs and government actors.

The $329,000 penalty he paid was said to represent what regulators say are the net profits he gained from the bribery scheme plus interest.

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

Berko was forced to resign as TOR’s MD on, 15th April 2020, a few months after the man he reportedly sponsored to win elections, President Akufo-Addo had rewarded him with the appointment.

In April 2020, Mr Berko was charged by the US SEC for “orchestrating a bribery scheme” and arranging at least $2.5 million in bribes to be paid to Ghana government officials and also bribing Members of Parliament.

The payment was allegedly made to gain approval for a client’s power plant project from “2015 through at least 2016,” according to court documents from New York.

The government officials, along with the companies, were not named in the court documents, something that has led to speculations that Berko probably had sourced the bribes and kept it to himself.

According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Asante Berko, arranged the bribes for a Turkish energy company to funnel the money to a Ghana-based intermediary. The local company then allegedly made the payments to government officials.

Between September 2016 and February 2017, the Energy Company allegedly paid Berko $2 million for successfully coordinating the bribery scheme.

Mr. Berko is said to have taken “deliberate measures” to prevent his own firm and subsidiary’s compliance personnel “from discovering his corrupt scheme.”

First, Mr. Berko used his personal email rather than his work email “to arrange the bribery scheme in order to evade detection.”

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