Kinross Gold settles U.S. charges related to bribe prevention in Africa

FILE PHOTO - People look on during the Kinross Gold Corporation annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto, May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Canadian-based mining company Kinross Gold Corp agreed to pay $950,000 to settle civil charges that it failed to ensure its payments in Africa were not being used to bribe government officials.

The SEC said in a statement Monday the company did little to verify payments to politically connected consultants and vendors - often made in cash - in Ghana and Mauritania were being used for their stated purpose.

For example between 2012 and 2015, Kinross paid a Ghanaian consultant $1,000 in cash per work visa he helped obtain for company staff, without detailing just what this former government official did to help expedite the process, the SEC said.

The U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compels companies to maintain book keeping practices aimed at preventing bribery.

Louie Diaz, a Kinross spokesman, said in an email that the SEC had made no findings that bribes had been paid, but rather targeted shortcomings in “timeliness and maintenance of our internal controls in West Africa, which we have strengthened and improved.”

As part of the civil settlement Kinross did not admit or deny wrongdoing but pledged to improve its accounting and compliance practices, Kinross said in a statement.

The Justice Department notified Kinross that it had closed its parallel criminal investigation last year, Kinross said in a statement.

Reporting by Joel Schectman; editing by Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker