Mauritanian firm target of Kinross probe, documents say – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – March 14, 2016)

JOHANNESBURG — More than two years after U.S. authorities began investigating Kinross Gold Corp. for alleged corruption in Africa, the case remains unresolved, but details of the company’s financial activities are starting to leak out.

Internal company documents viewed by The Globe and Mail suggest that one of the targets of the U.S. investigation is a Mauritanian firm that won the bidding for a $50.1-million (U.S.) transport and logistics contract from the Toronto-based gold miner.

Kinross awarded the contract to a French company in partnership with the Mauritanian company – which was owned by a former top Mauritanian government official – even though its bid wasn’t the lowest.

In its review of the bidders, Kinross concluded that the lowest bidder had a “political” disadvantage, the documents show. It decided instead to award the contract to the French and Mauritanian partnership. This would satisfy the “stated preference” of Mauritania’s government, according to another internal document.

A spokesman for Kinross wouldn’t comment on the documents, but he told The Globe that the company doesn’t always choose the lowest bidder, and that many commercial and business factors are considered in its decisions, not simply the price.

Kinross announced last October that the U.S. authorities, including the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, had issued subpoenas in 2014 and 2015 seeking information about alleged “improper payments made to government officials” in connection with its gold-mining operations in Mauritania and Ghana.

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