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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

SFO ends Soma corruption investigation

The UK Serious Fraud Office has ended a corruption investigation into UK-based exploration company Soma, concluding there is “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction,” the agency said on 14 December.

The investigation was prompted by allegations against the company made in a confidential July 2015 draft report by the United Nations’ Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, which was leaked to the press.

In October, it was revealed that an unsuccessful application for judicial review of the SFO, in which Soma claimed it faced financial ruin and had been fully cooperative, resulted in it obtaining an “exceptional” letter where the agency said there was insufficient evidence to support the UN allegations but that other strands of the probe were continuing.

Gol Línhas agrees US$3.6 million leniency deal with Brazilian prosecutors

Brazilian airline Gol Línhas Aéreas Inteligentes has signed a leniency agreement with federal prosecutors after an internal investigation uncovered payments made to companies linked to Eduardo Cunha, the former leader of Brazil’s lower house of Congress.

The settlement follows inquiries by tax authorities into payments for online advertising made by the airline to three companies between 2012 and 2013. In a statement on 13 December, Gol Línhas said it had agreed to pay 12 million reais (US$3.6 million) in fines and penalties without admitting liability.

1MDB whistleblower to be released from Thai prison

Purported 1MDB-whistleblower Xavier Justo is set to be released from a Thai prison this December following a royal amnesty, his local lawyer reportedly said.

Justo was in prison after being found guilty of blackmailing his former employer, Petrosaudi, an oil and gas company and former joint venture partner of beleaguered Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. Justo had leaked confidential company documents that formed the basis of international investigations into billions of funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.

Following the news, Justo’s wife has reportedly said she received several threats against her husband’s life.

Guinea's ex-mining minister charged in US corruption case

US authorities arrested and charged the former minister of mines for the African Republic of Guinea on 13 December over allegations that he gave investment rights to an unnamed Chinese conglomerate in exchange for US$8.5 million in bribes.

Mahmoud Thiam, who served as the country’s minister of mines between 2009 and 2010, attempted to launder the bribes through the US and Hong Kong banking system, according to the US Department of Justice.

Separately, Rio Tinto has previously accused Thiam of taking bribes from the company’s rivals, Vale and Beny Steinmetz Group Resources, in a US civil lawsuit that was dismissed in November 2015.

Liberia parliament committee denies soliciting US$1.5 million in bribes

The Liberian House of Representatives’ committee on mines and natural resources has denied accusations from an agent of Hummingbird Resources that the committee solicited US$1.5 million in bribes from the British exploration company in exchange for ratifying an agreement to grant gold mining rights in the country, according to local reports.

In a press conference on 13 December, the chairman of the committee, Matenokay Tingban, said the allegations are intended to blackmail politicians into ratifying an agreement which Hummingbird entered into with Liberia’s government in July 2015. On 30 November, the committee sent the agreement back to the government because it failed to meet standards for ratification under the law. 

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