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French firm fined N94.2m for bribing Nigerian officials

06 September 2012, 16:07

Paris - Nine years after the $214m National Identity Card scam involving top government officials and politicians blew open, a court in Paris, France on Wednesday  imposed a $600,000 (N94.2m)  fine on a French firm, Safran, for bribing public officials in Nigeria.

Reuters reported that investigating magistrates found that the bribes which were offered between 2000 and 2003 helped Safran win a 170 million Euro contract to produce  more than 70 million identity cards .

Safran, a 30 per cent state-owned defence and communications conglomerate, said it would appeal.

“Safran would like to point out that it is deeply attached to the strict respect of anti-corruption rules,” it added.

The company was  created on May 11, 2005 with the merger of Snecma and Sagem SA.

Foreign corruption rulings against big French companies are rare in France.

 A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that was leaked in July said French authorities lacked the resources to fight possible corruption in big export contracts.

Prosecutors had originally sought to have the Safran case dismissed, but did not lodge any formal request at the trial in June. The court let off two of the company’s executives for whom the prosecutors had sought a suspended sentence of up to 18 months and fines of 15,000 Euros each.

Like all members of the OECD, France is part of the convention which criminalises bribery of foreign officials.

The Federal Government had in 2001 awarded a contract worth $214m to a consortium led by French firm, Sagem, for the production of identity cards for all Nigerian citizens.

The contract was marred in 2003 by allegations that Nigerian officials collected more than $2m bribes to influence the award of the contract.

The case involving former Internal Affairs Ministers, the late Chief Sunday Afolabi and  Alhaji Mahammed Shatta; former Labour Minister, Hussain Akwanga and a former PDP National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, has not been resolved.

 Only a few Nigerians received identity cards under the scheme.

Nwodo was among Nigerian officials  arrested, arraigned and detained  in 2003.

He was prosecuted alongside others indicted in the scam, but the case was struck out on technical grounds but was not discharged.

The National Identity Management Commission established by the NIMC Act of 2007 has taken over the functions, assets and liabilities of the Department of the National Civil Registration which handled the identity card contract.

Attempts to speak with the Director-General of NIMC, Dr. Chris Onyemenem, on Wednesday proved abortive as he neither picked calls to his mobile phone nor replied text messages sent to him on the issue.

When contacted on Wednesday, the Head  of Media and Publicity, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Wilson Uwujeren, promised to get back to our correspondents since the issues concerned took place “as far back as 2003.”



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