The investment bank Goldman Sachs is backing an oil deal in Angola by U.S. firm Cobalt International Energy, despite a risk that local partners in the deal could expose Cobalt to prosecution for corruption in the United States, Global Witness revealed today.
Goldman Sachs is a major shareholder in Cobalt and two of its executives sit on Cobalt’s board. Agreements with the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol, give Cobalt shares in two Angolan oil exploration blocks and assign it two local partners, Alper Oil Limitada and Nazaki Oil and Gáz S.A.
Alper and Nazaki are obscure companies with no visible industry track record. This is a serious concern as Angola is a poor country afflicted by severe corruption: many observers believe that small and little-known companies are used as fronts by top Angolan officials to enrich themselves privately.