06/30/2015 03:38 EDT | Updated 06/30/2016 05:59 EDT

U.S. attempts to seize $34M in bribery case involving Calgary company

The U.S. Department of Justice is attempting to seize the proceeds of a bribe paid by a Canadian energy company to two Chadian officials.

The shares of Griffiths Energy, a company that was renamed Caracal Energy and then bought by a Glencore Xstrata, are now worth about $34 million US.

The former Griffiths Energy company, based in Calgary, was fined $10.3 million in 2013 to settle Canadian charges under the corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

After securing the desired oil development rights in February 2011, Griffiths Energy allegedly transferred $2 million to an account held by a shell company created by a wife of one of the officials, Mahamoud Adam Bechir. This bribe payment was commingled and laundered through U.S. bank accounts and real property, and eventually was transferred to Bechir's bank account in South Africa, where he is now serving as Chad's ambassador, the justice department says in a news release.

Griffiths Energy also handed over four million shares of the company to the wives of two Chadian officials in return for the award of oil development rights.

Canada made an unsuccessful attempt to recover the share certificates, but an Alberta court said Canadian officials had not presented enough evidence to seize them from the wives of the officials, whose names are on the certificates.

The U.S. Department of Justice is making a new attempt to seize the shares, which are currently held by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

However, the U.K. has placed a property freeze order on the share certificates, which so far is blocking the attempt to seize them as proceeds of a bribe.

The U.S. says it has jurisdiction because the Chadian officials, Bechir, formerly Chad's ambassador to the U.S. and Canada and Youssouf Hamid Takane, deputy chief of mission, were based in Washington, D.C. at the time of the offence. Takana now resides in the U.S.