Nigeria charges former customs chief over import duty

Nigeria’s anti-corruption police charged a former customs chief on Friday with helping three deported Indian businessmen evade the payment of $17 million in rice import duties.

Hamman Bello Ahmed, comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service from June 2008 to last March, and five others, are accused of colluding with the Vaswani brothers to defraud the government of 2.5 billion naira.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in March charged the Vaswani brothers — Sunil, Haresh and Mahesh — with non-payment of 3 billion naira in import tariffs.

The Vaswanis, who own automobiles, real estate, agriculture, textiles and heavy industry businesses under the Stallion Group brand with revenues in excess of $1 billion a year were deported by the authorities in April, for the second time in seven years.

The Vaswani brothers never appeared in court and the EFCC which said then they were at large, noted that the immigration service had been instructed to make sure the three Indians who hold British passports never re-entered Nigeria under false identities.

Ahmed and the five others — including the customs officer in-charge of the Lagos main port of Apapa, Stallion Group general manager Tajudeen Olalere, a clearing agent and a shipping company owner — all pleaded not guilty to a 46-count charge at a Federal High court in Lagos.

Judge Tijani Abubakar ordered the accused be remanded in prison and adjourned the case to August 18 when their bail applications would be heard.

Corruption is endemic in Africa’s biggest energy producer, from traffic police asking for bribes at checkpoints to multi-million-dollar cases involving politicians and government officials.

Source: Reuters

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  1. Femi says

    It is obvious that the Vaswani Brothers Sunil Vaswani, Haresh Vaswani and Mahesh Vaswani are being targetted by their business rivals with frivolous claims after they announced the historic N 162 billion joint venture with the Nigerian Federal Government. How else can one explain the aciton against them within days of the signing? Even earlier in 2007, they were given a clean chit by the Yar Adua Government after extensive investigations. The Vaswani rice project was to produce 1.5 million tonnes of rice in Nigeria employing 3 million people within the next five years.

    If Nigeria wants to acheive food security they have to treat foerign investors in a better way.

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