Anti-Corruption Investigators from 4 Countries Probes Government Ekpemupolo & a UK Firm Over Purchase of Naval Vessel
Anti-corruption investigators in four countries are examining a British firm’s links to a multimillion-pound defence deal involving a former Nigerian warlord.
Investigators in the UK, the US, Nigeria, and Norway are scrutinising Cas-Global after it was alleged that the firm paid a bribe to a Norwegian official as part of the sale of seven decommissioned naval vessels. The case has not yet been resolved but is set to take a significant turn on Tuesday when the verdict in the first court case arising out of the allegations is due to be announced in Oslo.
In the UK, Cas-Global has been the subject of an investigation since 2014 by the City of London police’s specialist anti-corruption unit.
The investigation is part of an effort by the UK to improve its record on prosecuting companies who are said to pay bribes to foreign officials and politicians to land contracts overseas. For many years, the UK has been castigated for failing to prosecute firms for this type of corruption.
In a report to be published on Monday, campaigners from the UK anti-bribery group, Corruption Watch, also criticise the British government for failing to spot what they believe are signs of potential corruption when Cas-Global was given an export licence in the deal – claims rejected by ministers.
The nature of Cas-Global’s business is not apparent from its accounts filed at Companies House since it was set up in 2008. Last month, Companies House declared that it was intending to dissolve the firm as it appeared to be moribund. The firm could not be reached for comment.
The Norwegian authorities are prosecuting a civil servant, Bjørn Stavrum, over allegations that he was paid $154,000 by Cas-Global to help secure the sale of the naval vessels. Stavrum denies the claims.
According to the indictment, Stavrum, who was responsible for the sale, was paid the money directly into his bank account in two instalments in 2013.
“The payments were improper, among other things because of Stavrum’s position, the amounts involved, and because they were kept hidden from his employer,” the indictment alleges.Prosecutors allege that the payments were designed to disguise how the vessels were being sold to a former Nigerian warlord, Government Ekpemupolo – a purchase that would have needed an export licence from the Nordic authorities. Ekpemupolo has denied being involved in corruption.
The City of London police said its detectives “continue to actively investigate the suspected bribery of a Norwegian public official in connection with the purchase of ex-naval vessels from 2012 onwards. The joint investigation with the Norwegian authorities has led to the arrest of four men.”
The City of London police added its detectives “are also liaising with the American and Nigerian authorities in respect of enquiries connected to financial transfers”.
The export of the vessels has been investigated by Corruption Watch which has used the freedom of information act to obtain documents about the case. The campaigners say that the case demonstrates the need to strengthen anti-corruption measures when export licences are being awarded.
Paul Holden, Corruption Watch’s investigations director, said:
The UK government is clearly open to charges of hypocrisy if, on the one hand, it urges countries like Nigeria to fight corruption, while making no effort to prevent corruption in its own export licence process.
Mark Garnier, junior minister at the Department for International Trade, rejected the claims, saying:
The government does not think that it is appropriate to base an assessment merely on the perception of corruption in the destination country.
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