Ex-Guinea minister pleads not guilty in U.S. to laundering bribes

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By Nate Raymond

<span class="articleLocation”>A former minister of mines in Guinea pleaded not
guilty on Tuesday to U.S. charges that he laundered $8.5 million
in bribes he received from a Chinese conglomerate to help it
secure mining rights in the West African country.

Mahmoud Thiam, a U.S. citizen who served as Guinea’s
minister of mines from 2009 to 2010, entered his plea in federal
court in Manhattan to one count of money laundering and one
count of transactions in criminally derived property.

His plea came after Thiam, 50, was arrested on Dec. 13 in
one of the latest cases to focus on allegations of bribery
involving individuals tied to Guinea’s mining sector.

According to the indictment, beginning in 2009, Thiam
received bribes from representatives of a Chinese conglomerate
to help it obtain highly-valuable investment rights, including
near total control of Guinea’s mining sector.

The Chinese conglomerate was not named in court papers, but
a key deal in the case matched the description of an agreement
reached in 2009 involving a joint venture majority owned by
China International Fund and China Sonangol.

Prosecutors said that to secretly receive the bribes, Thiam
opened a Hong Kong bank account and misreported his occupation
to conceal his status as a government official.

He then transferred millions of dollars from that account
to, among other things, provide funds to a Malaysian company
that facilitated buying a $3.75 million upstate New York estate
and to pay for private schools for his children, the indictment
said.

In court papers filed on Monday, Thiam’s lawyers said their
client was entitled to a presumption of innocence, and said it
was not clear that prosecutors can prove that an illegal quid
pro quo took place.

Those court papers were filed in support of Thiam’s bid to
be released on bail. A federal magistrate judge in December
ordered Thiam be detained after the prosecution argued that he
posed a flight risk.

The case is U.S. v. Thiam, U.S. District Court, Southern
District of New York, No. 17-cr-47.



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