Philadelphia, PA USA – Nov 10, 2017 -Data contained in the Paradise Papers, which is a giant leak of off shore financial records exposing global crime and corruption has named Madam Mamadie Touré, the widow of late Guinean President Lansana Conté, as a person involved in a multi-million dollar bribery scheme for mining rights in the poor West African country.
Information seen by West African Journal investigative team quotes US authorities as alleging that Madam Toure “received $5.3 million in bribes to help a mining company obtain rights to the world’s richest iron ore deposit.”In 2014, federal prosecutors were granted a request to and raided the home of Madam Toure in Jacksonville, Florida. Properties seized including restaurant equipment and an ice cream cooler together were worth about $1million.
The leaked information contained in the database of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) disclose that Madam Toure was granted legal Power of Attorney by a British Virgin Islands company known as Matinda Partners to, among other things, “…negotiate,conclude, sign, execute and deliver on behalf of the Company such conveyances, transfers, assignments, deeds, documents, licenses, authorities or agreements as said Attorney shall consider necessary or proper to enable to it to dispose of or acquire any assets in any part of the world (hereinafter referred to as “the assets”) on such terms as the Attorney shall consider proper or desirable in his absolute discretion…”
Shortly thereafter in 2006, the leaked information revealed that the widow of the late General Conte entered into a business relationship with an un-named mining company. However, at the time, BSGR, a mining company owned by an Israeli magnate Benny Steinmetz, in partnership with a Brazilian firm, owned iron ore rights in the Simandou and Zogota area of Guinea.
In December, 2014, the FCPA online blog reported that as part of a federal grand jury probe of BSGR’s business dealings in Guinea, Madam Toure had become “co-operating witness” a year earlier. She reportedly wore an FBI wire to record a conversation with a middle man for the BSGR company. In the recorded information, the middle man, a French national named Frederic Cilins, is heard offering millions of dollars in bribe to Madam Toure, if she would agree to lie to US prosecutors and destroy incriminating evidence.
The Guinean government later revoked the mining licenses of BSGR, accusing it of obtaining its license through corrupt means. It’s Brazilian partner known as Vale SA. BSGR denied any wrong-doing and its Brazilian partner was never implicated in any wrong doing.
U.S. authorities, according to the leaked documents in the Paradise Papers, alleged that Matinda Partners, which had earlier granted Madam Toure Power of Attorney, was used as a go-between entity to funnel $5.3 million to her “to help it win a disputed mining concession from her husband, then President Lansana Conte, shortly before he died in late 2008…”
As part of effort to reduce her public exposure and connection with Matinda Partners during the scheme, Madam Toure reportedly utilized “stand-in” shareholder companies Beneficence Foundation and the Swiss based Agefor SA as covers. Madam Toure has admitted to the bribery scheme and has been cooperating with U.S. authorities.
Also included the ICIJ database is Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was listed as a Director of the Bermuda registered offshore company known as Songhai Financial Holdings Ltd. a subsidiary of Databank’s finance, fund management and investment company Databank Brokerage Ltd., from April 2001 until September 2012.
Databank, was co-founded by an investment banker and current Finance Minister of Ghana Mr. Ken Nana Yaw Ofori-Atta.
In response to a request for comment, ICIJ reports that. “Stephen D. Cashin, chief executive of Pan African Capital and a board member of Databank, responded to a request for comment from Sirleaf-Johnson that Songhai was designed for offshore investors to invest in Ghana’s Databank and that Databank had no business in Liberia. President Johnson-Sirleaf was elected to the board of Databank before being elected president, he told ICIJ, and she has no interest in Songhai or Databank. Cashin said Sirleaf-Johnson actually resigned from Songhai before her election campaign, but the resignation was “not effected” until 2012 due to “an administrative oversight” in Bermuda.”
President Johnson-Sirleaf began her first term in January, 2006. No wrongdoing is attributed to her or Ghanaian Minister Ofori-Atta from information contained in the ICIJ database.
Governments around the world have begun to scrutinize the participation of companies, politicians and their nationals who are mentioned the the Paradise Papers and their involvement in secret and questionable offshore dealings.
The ICIJ, in its disclaimer, notes that there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts and it does not intend to suggest or imply that any people, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.
This ICIJ database contains information on almost 500,000 offshore entities that are part of the Panama Papers, the Offshore Leaks and the Bahamas Leaks and some from politicians featured in the Paradise Papers investigation. The data covers nearly 40 years up to early 2016 and links to people and companies in more than 200 countries and territories.
By Staff Reporter
West African Journal Magazine