The Federal Government of Nigeria allegedly seeks to Award revenue collection to SICPA, a global provider of security inks and secured identification company, which has been convicted and fined CHF 81 million ($90 million) for organisational deficiencies by the Swiss Office Of The Attorney General (OAG), as the OAG finally concluded its investigation and produced a penalty order for acts of bribery.

The proceedings identified the organisational deficiencies that made it possible for employees of SICPA to bribe public officials in the conduct of business in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela.

SICPA had been allegedly awarded a revenue collection contract by the federal government of Nigeria amidst the firm’s reputation which is tainted by allegations of systemic illegal practices, and investigations in several countries.

According to media reports, this was based on recommendations to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) through a proposal by Kibo Laboratories LLC, based in Washington DC.

The sanctioning of SICPA was for the acknowledged “organisational deficiencies” between 2008 and 2015 which relate to old actions, undertaken without the company’s consent and against its interest.

A statement from the Communications Service of the OAG read in part: “With the penalty order issued in accordance with Art. 102 para. 2 SCC in conjunction with Art. 322septies SCC, SICPA SA (SICPA) has acknowledged that it failed to take all necessary and reasonable organisational precautions to prevent bribes to foreign public officials. The OAG has accordingly ordered the company to pay a fine of CHF 1 million ($1.1 million) and imposed an equivalent claim for compensation amounting to CHF 80 million ($89 million) under Art. 71 para. 1 SCC.”

Other countries where SICPA is alleged to be currently undergoing probe include Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Senegal, Vietnam, and Ukraine.

“In the penalty order, the OAG finds the former sales manager of SICPA, who took advantage of the deficiencies, guilty of bribery of foreign public officials under Art. 322septies SCC. He is being sentenced to a conditional prison term of 170 days. The order states that he paid bribes to high-ranking officials in the Colombian and Venezuelan markets between 2009 and 2011”, it was further stated.

 SICPA takes the measure of this sanction but disagrees with its grounds, due to the absence of penal measures in the countries where the offences were allegedly committed.

In a side letter from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office BA, Urs Köhli, the OAG elaborates: “The company’s responsibility does not mean that SICPA SA itself committed these infringements perpetrated by former employees or consultants, nor that it wanted or accepted them. Since then, SICPA SA has voluntarily and fully addressed this organisational deficiency”.

SICPA maintained that it was not aware of such acts before they were notified and that as soon as they were brought to its attention, SICPA sanctioned those responsible. Also, in Brazil, the individuals whose convictions had required SICPA to execute a leniency agreement were acquitted on 8 June 2022. In the other two countries referred to in the OAG’s decision, SICPA was never prosecuted or even informed of any offence.  

It was also noted that SICPA and its former employee have declared that they will not be appealing against the penalty orders, which will be legally binding. SICPA regretted that an internal lack of organisation may have led to actions considered by the OAG as unethical.

Regarding the sensitivity of the issues around revenue generation in Nigeria, it is expected that the federal government takes a cursory look to reconsider and reject a partnership with SICPA on revenue collection, to avoid being caught in the web of corrupt practices already engulfing the brand.  

Involving SICPA in a revenue generation contract may further fuel and substantiate the notion that corruption is deep-rooted and a subsisting phenomenon in Nigeria. A government that seeks to improve its credibility before its citizens, the international community and Corruption Index must not turn a blind eye to the untoward business operations of companies and business partners in other jurisdictions.  Engaging and working with a Company like SICPA simply brings the reputation of the incoming government to disrepute, an image it can also not afford to have as it steps into the helms of power on 29th May 2023.

Written by Akinlabi Hassan.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed by Ventures Africa contributors are their own. 

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