JPMorgan Faces $6 Million Bribe Allegation From Libyan Oil Fund

(Bloomberg) -- The Libyan Investment Authority sued JPMorgan Chase & Co. in London, saying the lender paid more than $6 million in bribes to secure a $200 million bond deal.

JPMorgan’s Bear Stearns sent the payments to businessman Walid Al-Giahmi -- a close friend of the Qaddafi regime -- to arrange deals in a contract that was no more than a “sham” agreement, according to London court documents released Tuesday. The bank has until next month to submit defense documents in the case, which was filed in April. A spokesman declined to comment.

The LIA, an oil wealth fund set up under former dictator Moammar Qaddafi, is pursuing a number of claims against major banks seeking to nullify unprofitable deals that may have been influenced by bribes. Societe Generale SA paid more than $1.7 billion in settlements and regulators’ fines over claims the bank paid a bribe to Giahmi to arrange deals.

The Libyans say Giahmi may have acted “in the same way” on five sets of transactions involving other lenders, according to filings. Giahmi had personal connections with the Qaddafi family and regime, including Qaddafi’s son Saif Al Islam.

Bear Stearns raised $200 million for the LIA in five-year notes after the services agreement with Giahmi was signed in July 2007. Neither Giahmi nor his firm Lands Company Ltd. “provided any legitimate services to Bear Stearns,” according to the LIA’s complaint.

Instead, Giahmi bribed and intimidated the fund’s executive director Mustafa Zarti, other LIA executives and the head of an alternative investment team to enter into the bond agreements, the LIA said.

Bear Stearns, which JPMorgan bought at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, didn’t need the structuring services supposedly provided by Giahmi’s firm, the LIA said. While Bear Stearns International made a series of payments before the acquisition, JPMorgan Chase Bank paid the remaining $2 million tranche in 2009, according to the lawsuit.

The lender “knew or at the very least suspected that the Lands Company payments were fraudulent and corrupt payments,” the fund said.

The oil wealth fund hasn’t been successful in all of its recent claims. A lawsuit against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. that sought to recoup lost investments was thrown out in 2016.

The case is The Libyan Investment Authority v. JPMorgan Chase & Co & Others, High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts, Case No. CL-2018-000228.

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