Two UK businessmen arrested on suspicion of involvement in sale of warships to Nigerian security company
In December last year, the Norwegian press revealed that six decommissioned naval Hauk-class guided missile boats had been sold to a private security company in Nigeria. The articles alleged that the ships had been sold to Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, a former MEND commander and the alleged owner of Global West Vessel Specialists Ltd., a security firm contracted by NIMASA in Nigeria to protect the nation’s waterways.
The contract between NIMASA and GWVS itself has been subject to significant scrutiny in the Nigerian media due to its value.
Yesterday, City of London police arrested two businessmen as part of a joint investigation with Norwegian authorities into how the ships ended up being sold to Tompolo. Last year, both Tompolo and NIMASA were quick to state that the ships were actually under the control of the Nigerian Navy and not a private company.
In a press statement, the City of London’s Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit (OACU) said:
The City of London Police’s Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit (OACU) have today arrested two men on suspicion of bribing a foreign public official to assist them in purchasing six ex-naval vessels.
Detectives from the unit arrested a man in his early 40s at his home in Alfreton, Derbyshire and a man in his late 50s at his home in East Molesey, Surrey in a joint investigation with the Norwegian Authorities.
The two men are believed to be involved in a business that specialises in International Risk management for the maritime industry, with offices around the world including in the UK and Africa. They are alleged to have paid a Norwegian public official two direct payments into his personal bank account totalling more than $150,000 to help secure the sale of six decommissioned ex-naval vessels.
A third man was also arrested by the Norwegian Authorities in TØnsberg, Norway this morning.
The two residential addresses, along with a business address in Surrey, were searched and computer equipment and documentation were seized. The two men were taken to local police stations for questioning and the investigation is ongoing.
DCI Danny Medlycott, Head of OACU said, “Today’s operation is a great example of how OACU works closely with our law enforcement partners across the world to combat bribery and corruption.”
The Independent newspaper reports that the payments were made in two separate transactions, directly in to the Norwegian official’s bank account. The money, it is alleged, was to help secure the sale of the decommissioned vessels.
According to The Independent:
The UK police have not named the company involved, stating only that it was involved in “international risk management for the maritime industry.” However authorities in Norway say the arrested men are connected to a UK firm called CAS Global, which is headquartered in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The firm describes itself as specialising in “maritime services”.
Nigerian press reports suggest that CAS Global also has offices in Lagos in Nigeria, Tema in Ghana and in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
While there has been no comment so far from NIMASA or the Nigerian government, the news will come as an embarrassment so close to the country’s elections.