The Nigerian government has approved the award of a major maritime project to a company immersed in high-level corruption in two other African countries, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The company, Frabemar UK Ltd, is the technical partner to the consortium—MedTech and Rozi International—handpicked by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, to handle the country’s International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN).
It is unclear if the Nigerian government conducted a background check on the technical partner awarded the security-sensitive contract and decided to ignore it, or perhaps Frabemar is being used as a front for a powerful individual or group.
Frabemar SRL, a subsidiary within the Frabemar group, is in the business of pre-shipment inspection, in Genoa Italy.
Owned by Franco Bernardini, the company was indicted in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali for corruption and embezzlement of public funds in 2012 and 2015 respectively.
According to documents and publications sourced from the two countries, Frabemar’s contracts were terminated and the company charged to court on matters bordering on impropriety and corruption.
The reports said that Frabemar serially under-remitted the revenue accruable to those governments, and massively bribed government officials.
In 2009, the DR Congo’s Office of Multimodal Freight Management (OGEFREM) signed a contract with Frabemar to represent it in various ports around the world by providing a record of all goods destined for the DRC with an electronic import information sheet (Feri).
This, like the Nigerian version of the cargo tracking note, was to be done for a fee.
OGEFREM is a public enterprise of a technical and commercial nature in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But the proceeds from the arrangement never made it to the coffers of the Congolese government, reports said, with claims that they were diverted into the pockets of a few people including a former minister and honorary CEO of Frabemar.
Coordinated by the Deputy Prosecutor, the magistrate Francesco Pinto, the investigation revealed that Mr Bernardini and his son Massimo Bernardini had paid bribes to former Congolese, Nigerien, and Beninese ministers and politicians.
“These bribes were transferred from a current account opened in Liguria to Monte-Carlo, London and Mauritius,” one report said.
He was also said to have offered them large-displacement cars and other tips.
An Italian newspaper, Il Secolo XIX, also reported that the duo paid bribes in exchange for contracts to former ministers and assorted politicians from Congo, Niger, and Benin.
In leaked documents dated April 18, 2012, from the Ministry of Transports and Road Communications of the DRC addressed to the DG, OGEFREM, Frabemar’s contract of four-year with the country was terminated.
The document which was written in French and translated to English said: “By the order of the hierarchy, justified by the concern of the national interest, I instruct you to proceed with the termination of the special mandate contract which binds OGEFREM to FRABEMAR since April 22, 2008.
“Indeed it is clear that Frabemar has seriously violated the provisions of this contract especially in its articles 2, 3, 4 and 7, by not allowing the Congolese State to benefit from its right.”
In Mali, stakeholders were quick to raise eyebrows when the former Malian head of the Council of Chargers, Ousmane Babalaye, signed a contract for the supply of Cargo Tracking Slips with Frabemar.
Local newspapers widely reported Frabemar’s fate in DRC, questioning why their government would want to deal with Frabemar especially as it concerns public funds.
The procurement process in which Mr Babalaye assented to the contract was eventually faulted.
Efforts to speak with Nigeria’s government representatives proved abortive, as the Ministry of Transport declined to speak with this newspaper.
Similarly, email messages sent to the company, Frabemar, were not replied for weeks.