There is disquiet in the Presidency following reports that a firm implicated in a $20million bribe has applied for a fresh contract from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, The Nation has reported.
The firm, Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd, was indicted by Switzerland for allegedly wiring $20million bribe into the accounts of shell companies and fronts of some former officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
It is bidding for a new contract with 21 others while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is still investigating its activities.
There were indications that some bigwigs were trying to infiltrate the NPA to re-engage the company.
The Swiss authorities, through the Office of The Attorney-General, Department of International Affairs on May 2, 2012 implicated some NPA top officials in the $20million scandal alongside Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd.
In forwarding its report to the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, the Swiss government invoked the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the International Law Principle of Reciprocity.
Although the Jonathan administration rated the $20million as “consultancy” fees, the company admitted guilt in Switzerland and it was fined 1million Francs by Swiss authorities.
The company also refunded 36 million Swiss Francs described as illegal profits.
According to investigation, the Swiss government had sent the report and court proceedings to the Federal Government for action.
Following dust raised over the alleged “inaction” of the Federal Government, the EFCC has started investigating the bribery scandal in the report.
It was learnt that the indicted firm and about 21 others have applied for a contract from the NPA .
A top source said: “The EFCC detectives are currently on the trail of the company’s activities and those who collected the $20million bribe.
“While the investigation is ongoing, the company has been cited as one of the 22 firms that had applied for a new contract in NPA. The appropriate thing is to allow the EFCC to complete its investigation.
“Some influential Nigerians are trying to wield influence to assist the said company to remain in business. This is a direct assault on the anti-corruption agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“What these bigwigs are planning to do was to infiltrate the NPA in spite of the fact that the bribery scandal was perpetrated before Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman came into office as managing director.
“Some government officials have been cautioning those lobbying for the company not to embarrass the Buhari administration.”
A top source said: “Some forces, including some ministers backing the company, do not want the President to be in the picture of the indicted company’s bid for new contract. They are trying to shield the Swiss records from the government.
“After proper investigation, the former Nigerian government officials were indicted alongside Dredging International that was sentenced to a fine of one million Swiss Francs and directed to refund 36 million Swiss Francs in illegal profits for allegedly making the illicit payments to the Nigerian officials.
A top source in the NPA had denied that the management was covering up for the company.
He said: “We have referred the case to our legal unit for necessary advice on what to do on Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd and the indicted former staff of NPA. We are being careful in seeking legal advice because the contract the company signed was through the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
“We need to look into all contractual documents to avoid running the country into another crisis.
This advice will guide us in determining what to do with the company.”
*Culled from The Nation