Mahmoud Thiam, the former Minister of Mines for the African state of Guinea, has been convicted in a New York court of money laundering charges stemming from his scheme to launder $8.5 million in bribes he took from a Chinese conglomerate.
According to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, Thiam was charged with using his official position as Minister of Mines for the Republic of Guinea to facilitate the award to the Chinese conglomerate of exclusive and highly valuable investment rights in various sectors of the Guinean economy.
“Thiam abused his official government position to enrich himself at the expense of one of Africa’s poorest countries,” the Department of Justice statement said.
“Thiam laundered the proceeds of his bribery scheme into the United States to fund his lavish lifestyle, buying a multi-million dollar estate in Dutchess County, and paying for private schools for his children.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said: “As a high-level Minister in Guinea, Thiam sold out his country and then used U.S. banks and real estate to hide millions in bribes paid to him by a Chinese conglomerate.”
According to the Indictment, other filings in Manhattan federal court, and the evidence admitted at trial:
Thiam, a United States citizen who was Minister of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Guinea in 2009 and 2010, engaged in a scheme to accept bribes from senior representatives of a Chinese conglomerate and to launder that money into the United States and elsewhere.
In exchange for these multimillion-dollar bribe payments, Thiam used his position as Minister of Mines to facilitate the award to the Chinese conglomerate of exclusive and highly valuable investment rights in a wide range of sectors of the Guinean economy, including near-total control of Guinea’s significant mining sector.
In order to receive the bribes covertly, Thiam opened a bank account in Hong Kong (the “Hong Kong Account”) and misreported his occupation to the Hong Kong bank to conceal his status as a public official in Guinea.
Upon receiving the bribes, Thiam transferred millions of dollars in bribe proceeds from the Hong Kong Account to, among others, his bank accounts in the United States; a Malaysian company that facilitated and concealed his purchase of a $3,750,000 estate in Dutchess County, New York; private preparatory schools in Manhattan attended by his children; and at least one other West African public official.
To further conceal the unlawful source of the bribery proceeds that Thiam transferred from the Hong Kong Account to banks in the United States, he lied to two banks based in Manhattan and on tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service regarding the bribe payments, his position as a foreign public official, and the source of the funds in the Hong Kong Account.
Thiam, 50, of Manhattan, was convicted of one count of transacting in criminally derived property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 11, 2017.