Och-Ziff unit to plead guilty in U.S. bribe probe: sources

To match Special Report SEC/INVESTIGATIONS

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC will pay $400 million and a subsidiary will plead guilty to resolve U.S. probes into its involvement in bribes paid to African officials, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

In a deal expected to be announced on Thursday, the largest publicly traded U.S. hedge fund firm will enter a deferred-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice while a subsidiary will plead guilty, the sources said.

The payment will also resolve a related probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the sources said.

A spokesman for Och-Ziff declined to comment. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined comment while SEC representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.S. authorities had been investigating whether Och-Ziff violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and was involved in paying bribes to officials in various African countries including Libya and Congo.

New York-based Och-Ziff — a $39 billion hedge fund founded by Daniel Och — had earmarked $414 million for a possible settlement with the U.S. government relating to the investigation.

One of the first hedge fund companies to publicly list itself, in 2007, Och-Ziff has increased its assets under management in recent years.

But news of the government’s investigation has sent some investors fleeing, and it has lost $5.5 billion in investor outflows so far this year, the company recently disclosed.

In August, Samuel Mebiame, a Gabonese man who U.S. authorities said acted as a “fixer” for a joint-venture involving a hedge fund, was arrested and accused of engaging in a scheme to bribe officials in Africa to obtain mining rights.

Prosecutors did not identify the hedge fund at issue, but its description matched that of Och-Ziff.

A criminal complaint said Mebiame supplied cash and cars to two Niger officials; an S-class Mercedes Benz sedan and rented private Airbus jet to a Guinean official; and travel and shopping expenses for an adviser to Chad’s president.

A lawyer for Mebiame, the son of the late former Gabon Prime Minister Leon Mebiame, declined comment on Wednesday.

Shares of Och-Ziff on Wednesday closed up 5.72 percent after news of the settlement broke. The imminent deal was first reported by Bloomberg News.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Additional reporting by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Sandra Maler and Alistair Bell)