On Friday, August 25, 2017, it was announced that a former Minister of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Guinea had been sentenced to seven years in prison and three years of supervised release. 50-year-old Mahmoud Thiam of New York was sentenced for laundering bribes, which were paid to him by the China International Fund, SA and China Sonangol International Ltd.
After a seven-day trial, Thiam was convicted on one count of transacting in criminally derived property and one count of money laundering on May 3. Evidence presented during the trial explained that China Sonangol, China International Fund and their subsidiaries entered into a series of agreements with Guinea to acquire mining rights in the country. Executives of both companies paid bribes to Thiam to convince him to utilize his position as Minister of Mines to influence the government’s decision.
Evidence showed that the defendant carried out a scheme to launder the bribe payments from 2009 to 2011. During that period of time, CIF and China Sonangol paid the defendant $8.5 million using a bank account in Hong Kong. The defendant transferred $3.9 million to United States bank accounts and used the money to purchase luxury goods and for other personal expenses. Thiam told banks in the U.S. and Hong Kong that he was a paid consultant and that the money was income from the sale of land that was earned before he was a minister.
CIF and China Sonangol acquired exclusive and valuable rights to conduct business in various sectors of the Guinean economy. Trial evidence confirmed that the purpose of the bribes was to acquire rights and interest in natural resources in the country.