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

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.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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