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Transparency International calls for foreign bribery investigations into Senegal’s lucrative oil deals

Complaints have been filed in six jurisdictions

Authorities in at least six countries should investigate suspicious deals for two major oil blocks off the coast of Senegal, Transparency International said today. In light of the apparent reluctance of the Senegalese authorities to fully investigate and hold perpetrators to account, it is critical that the available evidence is promptly examined by the authorities in countries that have jurisdiction over the case: Australia, Romania, Malaysia, Singapore, UK and the US.

In 2019, independent investigations by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and BBC Africa Eye uncovered previously unknown details surrounding the 2012 sale of concession rights for the Deep St. Louis and Deep Cayar offshore blocks, located off the coast of Senegal.

These revelations implicate the incumbent president of Senegal, Macky Sall, his brother, Aliou Sall, and the son of the former president.

According to the reports, the controversial Romanian-Australian businessman Frank Timis allegedly bribed Senegalese officials in efforts to acquire access to lucrative oil and gas reserves under extremely favourable conditions. His business partner Eddie Wong, who holds passports of Malaysia and Singapore, reportedly facilitated some of these connections and came to represent Timis’s companies around the time of the sale. Timis has denied any wrongdoing.

The release of these investigations prompted protests in Senegal. In response to public pressure, the President’s brother Aliou Sall resigned from public office but rejected claims that he received secret payments. The investigation into Aliou Sall’s role was dismissed by a judge in December 2020.

As the allegations of corruption remain unresolved, it is key that authorities in other countries, to which this case extends, act.

Birahim Seck, coordinator of Forum Civil, Transparency International’s national chapter in Senegal, said: “People of Senegal deserve transparency and integrity when it comes to how their natural resources are handled. These oil and gas reserves have the potential to transform Senegal and lift millions from poverty. And yet, they have been sold to a convicted offender who has reportedly repeatedly lied to communities and investors, all the while engaging in dubious business dealings with public officials.”

Journalists’ exposés detail the history behind the subsequent sale of concessions to US-based Kosmos Energy and BP, British multinational company. Both claim to have done their due diligence. Documents examined by Transparency International suggest that these companies should have known they were entering deals showing numerous red flags of corruption.

Transparency International has supplied available evidence to the authorities in Australia, Romania, Malaysia, Singapore, UK and the US.

Ádám Földes, Global Outreach & Advocacy Advisor at Transparency International, said: “The Senegalese public is being deprived of potentially billions in royalties from the natural resources that belong to them. Only opening investigations against them in the other jurisdictions will get them the justice they deserve.”

In the US, for example, Transparency International has asked the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to determine whether Kosmos Energy and BP violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which prohibits companies that list stock in the US from engaging in the bribery of foreign officials.

The case should also create new urgency for the US Congress to crack down on the “demand” side of foreign bribery by passing the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act (FEPA). FEPA would make it a crime for a foreign official to demand or accept any bribe that substantially impacts US commerce.

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