Panalpina bribery scam: Nigeria Customs keeps mum
By Ezra Ijioma
Sunday, 14 Nov 2010
Signals have emerged that the Nigeria Customs officials mentioned in the Panalpina and others bribery scandal in the United States Department of Justice investigations, may, after all, not be identified and punished.
Panalpina, an international freight forwarder, and six other energy companies including Shell Nigeria, have been fined $236.5m [N35,475b] by the US DoJ for bribing officers of the Nigeria Customs in order to obtain preferential treatment in handling their consignments into the country between 2002 and 2007.
SUNDAY PUNCH investigations revealed that the Customs high command is keeping mum over the matter given that past and present high ranking officers were affected.
When contacted on the issue, the Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Customs Service, Wale Adeniyi, said the service was aware of the report but would not take action, because names of the affected customs officers were not mentioned.
He said, ?Yes I read the report but there are a number of gaps which we observed in the report. First, we don?t know some of the officers they are talking about and for us to know, we must know the identity of the officers in question.
?We must know the command where this act was allegedly perpetrated. But the report also raised the issue of the procedure that was in place at that period, 2002 to 2007. The procedure in use then was still semi-automated, it was not fully automated, so we cannot fully rule out the possibility of compromise.
?It is possible that some people may have compromised procedure in order to take certain advantages for themselves. But the procedures we have in place now do not make it possible for anybody to arrange preferential treatment for another person for some items.
?In those days there could be possibilities of compromise, but then we are saying that these are possibilities because we don?t have proof, we don?t have names and we don?t have command.?
When asked if the Customs will get in touch with Panalpina and others in order to fish out the men involved in the bribery scandal, Adeniyi replied, ?We don?t have any business getting in touch with Panalpina.
?It does not serve us any purpose getting in touch with Panalpina. Perhaps, it might interest you to know that Panalpina operations in Nigeria have folded up.
?Panalpina withdrew from its freight forwarding business in Nigeria in 2008 because it claims that it cannot operate without violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids US companies from paying bribes to foreign officials to obtain or keep business.?
Also when contacted, the Head, Media and Publicity of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Femi Babfemi, said that the commission was aware of the issue and was reviewing the facts of the case.
He said, ?I am aware of the report and the Chairman (Mrs Farida Waziri) has referred it to one of our units to get further facts on the issue. Yes we are reviewing the case and the facts surrounding it.?