Saturday, October 31, 2020

Israel to indict firm in Kenya bribery scam

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Israeli police and its securities regulator said they had sufficient evidence to proceed with a case where a construction firm has been accused of bribing Kenyan officials in exchange for lucrative road contracts.

Police and the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) said on Sunday they had completed the investigation and would send the results to the state prosecutor’s office in the coming days.

They said Shikun & Binui and its units transferred bribery payments to civil servants in various African countries, especially in Kenya, “with the aim of increasing the company’s profits”.

During the investigation in conjunction with Kenya’s anti-corruption unit in Nairobi, 50 suspects were interrogated, including 19 public servants in Kenya.

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“According to the evidence collected, in Kenya alone where the investigation focused … bribes totalling tens of millions of shekels were transferred, generating projects and benefits worth hundreds of millions of shekels,” police and the ISA said.

The Israeli construction group through its foreign subsidiary Solel Boneh International Holdings (SBI Holdings) was the company chosen to build the World Bank-funded Mau Summit-Kericho-Kisumu highway at a cost of Sh14 billion in 2010. It was, however, accused of missing completion deadlines in upgrading the crucial link.

The company has been gunning for other projects in Kenya.

The Israeli action turns the heat on those who served at the helm of the Transport ministry at the time and whose dockets are mentioned, for allegations of presiding over corrupt practices contrary to the demands of good corporate governance and demands of public office.

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Investigations into Shikun & Binui began in February 2018 and the company said at the time that four current and former employees of a foreign subsidiary had been detained for questioning by Israeli police on suspicion of bribery in Africa.

Offences, police and the ISA, include bribery of a foreign public servant, misrepresentation of corporate documents, conspiracy, disruption of legal proceedings, money laundering and misreporting to authorities between 2008 and 2016.

Arison Group, controlled by Israeli-American billionaire Shari Arison, owned a majority stake in Shikun & Binui before selling its stake last August.

Arison’s lawyers said in a statement they were certain that the state prosecutor, after examining the case, “will reach an informed conclusion that there was no flaw in Shari Arison’s conduct.”

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