US company chief admits paying $4.4m to INEC, UN officials

2010-09-20
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Niyi Odebode

A former executive of a United States company has mentioned an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission in a fingerprint ink pad contract bribery.

The Associated Press reported on Sunday that the former chief executive, Richard Bistrong, admitted in a federal court that he helped to keep $4.4m (about N655.6m) in kickbacks off the books between 2001 and 2006 at Armor Holdings of Jacksonville, Florida, where he was vice-president for international sales.



Dr. Abel Guobadia and Prof. Maurice Iwu were the chairmen during the period that the bribe was offered to the official whose name was not given by the AP.



The former chief executive of the company, which sells body armuor and other protective gear, also pleaded guilty on Thursday to bribing officials of the United Nations and elsewhere overseas to win lucrative contracts.



The bribes included $200,000 paid to the UN officials to win $6m in contracts to provide body armour to peacekeeping forces.



He also said he authorised payments to a Dutch police officer for a pepper spray contract and the Nigerian INEC official for fingerprint ink pads.



According to AP, Bistrong, who is cooperating with the US government‘s investigation into bribery schemes, pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy count that carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.



Judge Richard Leon did not schedule a sentencing date as Bistrong continues to assist with prosecution of others involved in the scam.



The former company chief was charged in January, 2010 as 22 other executives of suppliers to military and law enforcement agencies were arrested in a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation. Most were rounded up while attending their industry‘s annual trade show in Las Vegas.



When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said, “I do not see his reported plea as something that should preoccupy this commission.



“He spoke of bribing an unnamed election officer (out of one million and one there) and that was at an unspecified time between 2001 and 2006.



“This present commission, which only came to office at the beginning of July has a crowded schedule planning for the voter registration and upcoming elections than to go looking for a pin in a haystack.”



In documents filed at a US court, Bistrong said that in March 2006, on behalf of the company, he entered into discussions with INEC regarding the sale of Company‘s fingerprint ink pads to the election body.



He said that a month later, April 2006, an INEC official told him that the body would purchase the fingerprint ink pads if the INEC official was paid a kickback on the sale.



According to Bistrong, in Apri1 2006, he advised that the company should not pay the INEC Official directly, but that the INEC Official should designate a company to which the company should pay the kickback, knowing that the kickback would then be passed on to the official.



Bistrong explained that in the same April 2006, he instructed that a kickback be paid to a company designated by the INEC offcial in exchange for INEC‘s purchase from the company fingerprint ink pads, a purchase that was never made.



He added that from 2001 to 2006, the, $4.4m was kept off the company‘s financial books. He said the money was payments to agents and other third-party intermediaries used by the company to assist it in obtaining business from foreign governent customers.



Bistrong said he and others caused the company to send to the end users, primarily government customers, an invoice that included a fee the company would pay to agents. At the same time, a false invoice - a so-called ”net” invoice - that would not contain the amount to be paid to the company‘s agents.



According to Bistrong, the company‘s accounting department will then enter the data from the false ”net” invoices into Company A‘s books and records.

 

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