Israeli shipyard suspected of bribery in Nigerian warship deal


Israeli officials have arrested three Israel Shipyards employees over a suspected bribery scandal involving the sale of Shaldag patrol boats to the Nigerian Navy.

According to The Times of Israel, three senior Israel Shipyards figures were arrested in Haifa on 18 March on suspicion of bribing a Nigerian official in exchange for supplying the patrol boats. They are suspected of bribery, fraud, money laundering, tax offenses and breaching export laws.

International law enforcement is reportedly involved in the investigation along with Israeli police and the Israel Tax Authority.

According to Haaretz, the chairman of Israel Shipyards, Samy Katsav, was questioned by police on 19 March and released to house arrest. Katsav controls 20.25% of Gold Bond, which is the parent company of Israel Shipyards.

Israeli officials are looking at the sale around ten years ago of two Shaldag patrol boats to the Nigerian Navy worth $25 million. The company has also exported vessels to Chile, Sri Lanka, Greece, Mexico and Equatorial Guinea.

The Nigerian Navy received at least four Shaldag Mk II patrol boats between 2009 and 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Transfers database.

The Shaldag design is in service with the Israeli Navy and other customers in Europe, Asia and Africa. It was developed and built by Israel Shipyards Ltd in the late 1980s but upgraded over the years based on combat experience. The type is powered by two diesel engines driving two water jets, which give an acceleration time to 40 knots of 40 seconds. The Shaldag Mk II has a length of 24.8 metres, a displacement of 58 tons and a range of 650 nautical miles.

Standard equipment on most Shaldag versions includes an X-band surveillance/navigation radar and electro-optical sensor system for day and night surveillance. A number of armament options are available, including fore and aft deck guns, and heavy machineguns on the fly bridge. The guns can be remotely controlled (such as the 23/25 mm Typhoon and 12.7/7.62 mm Mini-Typhoon) or manually operated. In addition, a 20-23 mm naval gun can be mounted on the rear gun mount or four to eight short range missiles can be carried.

As part of efforts to boost maritime security, Nigeria on 30 October last year announced that it had signed a three-year $195 million maritime security contract with Israeli firm HLSI Security Systems and Technologies. Much of the contract will focus on training Nigerian military and law enforcement agencies to combat maritime crime.

In January this year, Nigeria’s House of Representatives criticized the management of the Nigeria Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for awarding the contract to HLSI, saying it is a breach of Nigeria’s internal security, and defies local content laws.

The contract is expected to commence before June this year.

Nigeria’s Vanguard reported last week that the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions recommended cancelling the $195 million contract saying it would lead to capital flight.

Nigeria has acquired other defence products and services from Israel in the past, including Aerostar unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and a Falcon Eye maritime surveillance system. The latter was inaugurated in June 2016. It is designed in Israeli by Asia Global Technology but manufactured by United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Falcon Eye Technology. It uses a number of electro-optic systems and cameras operated from a command centre to detect and pinpoint vehicular and human movements. Nigeria’s system has a range of up to 35 nautical miles from the coast and uses six electro-optical stations to monitor vessels, aircraft and offshore platforms.

Maritime security remains a burning issue in Nigeria with a number of recent attacks. According to the International Maritime Bureau, eight armed pirates in a speedboat attacked a tanker underway off Nigeria on 16 March, but the attack was aborted. That same day, armed pirates boarded a cargo ship underway but the crew retreated to their citadel and the pirates left the ship. Yet another attack took place on 6 March when armed pirates boarded a tanker but were rescued by the Nigerian Navy.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, on 9 February, armed pirates off Bonny Island, Nigeria, attacked a cargo ship underway. Four crew were kidnapped, property was stolen and one crewmember was injured.