On Monday, October 30, 2017, Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi stunned his audience at an event to mark the World Maritime Day, as he unveiled an extensive deal at an estimated value of $195 million with an Israeli company, in which he did not name (later it was revealed that the company’s name is HSLI Systems and Technology Ltd.).
Amaechi revealed that as a result of the deal, the unnamed company would gain complete control over Nigeria’s waterways for a period of three years. Meanwhile, the Israeli company would provide training services to the Nigerian security forces; and at the end of the three-year contract, the Nigerians will regain full control of the waterways from the unnamed company. The agreement also consists of a supply of three helicopters, three aircraft, three big battle-ready ships, 12 vessels, and 20 amphibious cars to secure Nigerian waters.
Amaechi explained that the project would obviate the necessity for safekeeping and escort of ships and vessels crossing Nigeria’s waterways. It should be taken into consideration that Minister Amaechi is a partner and a confidant of the President, assisting him in obtaining the President’s approval for the deal. The contract was finally approved and signed by the Federal Executive Council on October 2017.
The statement given by Amaechi at the International World Maritime Day event soon faced strong resentment from a long list of organizations and a wave of opposition that reached the door of the House of Representatives. This led the lower chamber to begin investigating the matter. Many clauses of the agreement remain vague, including elementary information such as the identity of the implementing company (HLSI), the exact equipment to be supplied, and how the Navy, which is responsible for securing Nigeria’s waterways in general, is aware of the agreement’s full implications.
In May 2017, public pressure had obligated President Muhammadu Buhari to announce the complete annulment of the deal, and the initiation of an investigation led by the NSA and the DIA. Three months later the contract was reinstated. The Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, explained that the contract was initially stalled as a result of investigation on the status of the firm. According to Peterside, the firm had since been given clean bill of health to proceed with the contract after the conclusion of the investigation.
The scandalous deal did not stop Buhari from appointing Minister Amaechi as his re-election campaign’s Director-General. Amaechi was also the Director-General of the BuhariOsinbajo Presidential Campaign Committee between 2014 and 2015. The appointment immediately raised suspicion that the payment in advance given to HLSI was truly intended to finance Buhari’s 2019 election campaign. Suspicions intensified as soon as the President announced he would not use government funds for his re-election campaign at the closure of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting for January 2019.
The company behind the scandalous deal was identified as HSLI Systems and Technology Ltd., owned by Israeli-based Mitrelli Group and part of Mitrelli’s security branch. Until 2012 Mitrelli was known as the LR Group, a company established in 1985 by three Israeli Air Force pilots. The three became billionaires due to a lengthy list of deals in Angola and other countries around the world. The LR group is shrouded in mystery and its work ethics have frequently raised question marks. In 2012, the LR Group partners drifted apart and the business was divided among them. One of LR’s original founder, Eytan Stibbe (50%) and the former manager of LR operations in Angola Haim Taib (50%) founded Mitrelli Group. Taib is Mitrelli’s General Manager. The Chairman of HLSI Systems & Technology LTD is Nasiru Haladu Danu. The Manager of HLSI Systems & Technology Ltd is Mickey Har Gaash.
Nasiru Danu is also a close friend of Amaechi and the founding members of APC; all were present at his wedding in December 2017. Nasiru Danu is also the Director of Logistics of the Buhari campaign organisation for the 2019 presidential election!
Minister Amaechi contracted Israeli company LR Group during his tenure as the Governor of Rivers State. On March 2012, Amaechi and the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) initiated a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the LR Group (today they are called Mitrelli) to develop a $140 million 3000-hectare farm settlement in Etche.
On December 2014, the All Progressives Congress (APC) named Amaechi as the Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organization, an organization responsible for Buhari’s 2015 presidential election. After the 2015 presidential elections accusations were made against Amaechi that he diverted funds originally designated to the LR Group Etche farm deal into funding Buhari’s election campaign.
In August 2015, reports in Nigerian media were awash with Amaechi’s ownership of several foreign accounts. In one of the reports, it was alleged that “the sum of over 757 million U.S. dollars was stacked by Amaechi in a foreign U.S. Bancorp/Minnesota account. In October 2015, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the sale of state assets in Rivers State under Amaechi, demanded the immediate prosecution of Amaechi and all his cronies involved in the illegal sale of state assets. According to the panel report, Amaechi misappropriated over N97 billion in the sale of the state’s valued assets.
in April 2016, Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation, was quoted in an article that the former Governor of the Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola and his counterpart Amaechi had allegedly funded Buhari’s 2015 campaign. According to SIGNAL, an online medium, new findings revealed that Amaechi had allegedly acquired and diverted more than N40billion, originally of state funds, towards 2015 presidential campaign.
Additional source in an interview to SIGNAL said that “the N6 billion largesse Amaechi donated to Buhari just for the primaries alone is what was partly spent settling over 8,000 APC delegates. Buhari outspent Atiku, Kwankwaso and the other aspirants. Delegates were settled in hard currency before and on the grounds of the primaries. Another source who pleaded anonymity, said: “Amaechi was the one spending most of the money for media, for the US consultant David Axelrod and most of the private jets and vehicles used by APC during the campaign were provided by him. That’s why he became known even within his party’s circles as the ‘ATM.’”
MITERELLI $195 MILLION WATERWAYS SECURITY DEAL
The waterways security deal led by Amaechi and approved by NIMASA was signed off by the Federal Executive Council in December 2017 after receiving approval from the President.
The deal’s contractor, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies, was supposed to be paid $195million (about N60billion) to procure security equipment and train Nigerian security personnel to tackle criminalities on the national waterways. The Guardian later reported that the contract consisted of three helicopters, three aircraft, three big battle-ready ships, 12 vessels, and 20 amphibious cars to secure Nigerian waters.
Amaechi, who disclosed the deal at an event to mark World Maritime Day in Lagos, did not reveal the name of the Israeli firm involved in the deal. The contract was planned to commence in December 2018 and run for three consecutive years.
During this period of time the Israeli firm will train and instruct the Nigerian security forces personnel. After the expiration of the contract the operation will be handed over to the Nigerian force. Amaechi had explained that the project would obviate the need for security and escort of ships, cruisers and vessels crossing Nigeria’s waterways and added that the Israelis had assured him that after the training of the security operatives, harassment and attacks on Nigeria’s waterways would cease and that the firm would be held accountable if such attacks persisted after the Nigerian personnel training had taken place. In October 2017, Amaechi said that the Israeli company was “yet to launch because they are still buying the equipment”.
Shortly after the contract was granted, critics began raising questions regarding the Nigerian administration’s decision to hire a foreign firm to secure Nigerian waterways, claiming it could undermine Nigeria’s sovereignty and national security. Amaechi accused some government officials, and “people making money from water” of sabotaging the government’s effort in restoring peace to Nigerian national waters. The President approved a contract of $195 million and there are people in the system sabotaging that contract. The contract is to restore security in the nation’s water.”
Some civil society organizations (abbreviated as CSOs) have petitioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives regarding the deal. The petition, signed by 10 CSOs and dated November 14, 2017, was presented to the House of Representatives. It was entitled the ‘Petition on the Ceding of Nigerian Coastal Waterways to HLSI Security Firms and Technologies and Commercialization of the Nigerian Navy to Shorefac Consortium Ltd. (Shorefac Consortium will be technically dedicated to the maintenance of Naval vessels while also acting as a commercial partner to the Navy). They claimed that this is an aberration to Nigeria’s sovereignty to national security’. They appealed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to investigate the $195 million contract, particularly the procurement process leading to the selection of the HSLI company.
On December 8, 2017, the Nigerian House of Representatives demanded a halt to a contract. The Federal Government Chairman, Committee of the House Committee on Public Petitions, Mr. Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia) made the official demand. The lawmaker said the public hearing would enable the House of Representatives to have an overview of the matter and the benefits Nigeria would gain from this deal. According to him, relevant invitations had been sent to different parties, including the Navy, NIMASA, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Defence, and other stakeholders to appear before the committee. Amaechi, and the Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Dakuku Peterside, were present at the hearing. The hearing could not go ahead as planned due to the fact that the Nigerian Navy, whose statutory duties centered on securing Nigerian waterways, was not originally invited.
The Committee discovered that the Navy had not received an invitation and was not prepared to respond to questions, as the deal was hurriedly brokered by the Minister without the involvement of the Navy. There had been indications that the Nigerian Navy was deeply insulted for being sidelined and its statutory duties made to look irrelevant as far as the surreptitious security deal was concerned.19
On March 2018, the House Committee on Public Petitions, which investigated the scandalous contract, revealed that the contract would violate appropriation laws because it was not based on the actual budget and recommended outright termination. The lawmakers said that HLSI was not a registered company in Israel and that Amaechi failed to supply them with documents even after they had conducted eight different hearings on the matter.
On January 2018, a Don at the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology in Lagos and the leadership of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) have mutually disagreed over the viability of the signed $195 million maritime security contract between the Nigerian government and the Israeli firm HLSI Security Firms and Technology Inc.
The President of SOAN, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, stated that the maritime security contract signed with HSLI goes against the nation’s local content policy. “It is very dicey for a nation to mortgage her sovereignty, particularly in the area of security, to a foreign nation…the Navy, we all know, is in charge of policing our waters. So, if the Navy had been the one bringing in the Israeli partner, then our local content policy would have been respected… But the Navy didn’t bring in the foreign partner, to me the entire process is faulty,” he said.
On January 11, 2018 the House of Representatives criticized the management of Nigeria’s Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for awarding the contract to an Israeli firm, insisting that the project is a breach of the country’s internal security. The House of Representatives noted that the contract was not only a security breach but also defies the local content law, which promulgates patronizing of Nigerian goods and services.
On January 31, 2018, a session convened at the National Assembly in Abuja investigating the deal was stalled after lawmakers could not lay their hands on the contract papers. The House of Representatives directed Amaechi and other stakeholders to produce the documents on the $195million waterways security contract within 72 hours. Expressing frustration of the committee, Nkem-Abonta stated: “We have been demanding these documents and we have received no responses. This is about the 8th hearing on this issue. If the contractual documents and agreements cannot be produced within the next 72 hours, we will be forced to close this matter and make our recommendations to the House.”
DEAL TERMINATION, MAY 2018
In May 2018, Buhari terminated the $195 million ‘Israeli’ security contract.
Amaechi had long been considered as one of President Buhari’s biggest loyalists in his cabinet, and is publicly considered crucial to the President’s re-election efforts. “The Minister carried us along in the contract,” a senior naval officer said under anonymity. “He was able to get the president to sign the contract, but it seemed the president felt deceived after learning that so many things were wrong with it.”
In a memo written by the Chief of Staff to the president, Abba Kyari, Buhari said he was directing the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to terminate the contract. Meanwhile, the President had also ordered the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) to investigate how the contractor obtained security clearance for the job without an end-user certificate.
The President had also ordered that the contractor would supply items equivalent to the $50million upfront payment given by the Nigerians to HSLI. It was not clear whether it will be possible for Nigeria to recover any amount of money of the advance payment given to HSLi.
THREE MONTHS LATER, THE CONTRACT WAS REINSTATED
Three months after the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, directed the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to terminate the HSLi /Mitrelli contract, the contract was reinstated.
The Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, explained that the contract was initially stalled as a result of investigation on the status of the firm. According to Peterside, the firm had since been given clean bill of health to proceed with the contract after the conclusion of the investigation.
He said, “At some point, there were issues raised about the status of the firm and indeed the President directed that further investigations be made on the status and record of the firm.”
The contractor HSLi, Amaechi and NIMASA were eager to show some progress in the project in light of the overwhelming criticism; they started surveillance training for some security agencies to jointly rid the waters of criminality. The surveillance training was to equip the officers of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, the Department of State Services (DSS), and NIMASA on the C4I Integrated Surveillance Systems operation. The system is expected to aid the coordinated view of the entire Nigerian maritime domain.
The Director General, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, at the graduation ceremony held at the Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre (NMRDC), in Lagos, yesterday, restated the government’s determination to ensure that Nigeria’s territorial waters were free of piracy, and all forms of maritime crime to facilitate economic development.
The LR group Ltd., currently based in Herzliya, Israel, was founded in 1985 by Roy Ben Yami, Ami Lustig and Eytan Stibbe. The company specializes in arms trade, and the development, production, and initiation of various projects in the sectors of renewable energy, agriculture, communications, infrastructure and healthcare. LR Group operates, inter alia, in developing countries in large-scale regional agricultural development projects, cooperating with local population and governmental officials.
Stibbe, Lustig and Ben-Yami met during their military service in the F-16 squadron of the Israeli Air Force. At the beginning, the three dealt with consulting companies in the Israeli Defense Industry. Ami Lustig became a special advisor to Rafael for the development and marketing of air-to-air missiles.
The first deal by LR was for the Portuguese Ministry of Finance, which was looking for entity that would establish a maritime police force to protect against infiltrations and smuggling. After their success in Portugal, the LR group was given a business opportunity in Angola. During the civil war in the country, the Angolan President ordered the purchase of huge quantities of weapons around the world. The LR Group bet on the President’s victory in the civil war.
Initially, they won a tender for renovation of the Luanda Airport, of the Luanda airport and a contract to install communication systems in the field control tower, track lighting and air control systems. Following this project, the company won a tender for the construction and renovation of five additional airports in all the country’s districts. Later on, Congo also ordered from LR a total renovation of its international airport.
Some of the contracts signed between LR and the Angolan government included financing from funds yielded off the sale of oil produced in the country and goods such as cocoa and coffee beans. LR’s next deal was the acquisition of a Boeing 707 for the Angolan president and its renovation with IAI. The contract was worth $ 14 million. Despite the success of the deal, it led to the cessation of joint activity with IAI for a certain period of time. IAI received reports that LR were buying most of the equipment for Angola in the former Eastern bloc countries.
Meanwhile, LR intensified its ties in Angola and supplied equipment not only to the Coast Guard and the national air force, but also to the ground forces. The Israeli military industry, which was in crisis at the time, understood that it was worthwhile for them to cooperate with LR, and consequently cooperated in a variety of deals with LR in Angola. At the same time LR received additional projects in the sector of airports renovation.
In addition to cooperating with the military industries in Israel, LR continued to cooperate with the Eastern European countries. Initially, LR acquired two Russian-made Sukhoi 27 fighter jets. The successful Sukhoi deal led the Angolan president to deepen his work with LR. LR opened an office in Kiev, which employed many veterans of the Ukrainian security and government, including associates to the then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Among other things, LR mediated between the Ukrainian radar industry and the Angolan authorities.
In 2000, Russian-made radar systems were sold to Ethiopia, and two years later the Ukrainian press revealed suspicions that one of the systems sold to Ethiopia had found its way into the hands of Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, and behind the sale to Iraq was President Kuchma and his LR associates. After a long investigation it was decided that there was no way to locate the radar in Iraq, and that there was no proof that Kuchma or LR were involved in transferring it to Iraq.
In an indictment filed in 1999 in Romania against Shimon Naor, a former sales agent for Israeli defense industries, it was alleged that LR, for which he also worked, had sheltered arms sales to African countries that had been embargoed, such as Nigeria and Eritrea. According to the indictment, weapons that came to Ukraine from Iran and Central Europe were loaded onto an airplane leased by LR, which operated in the Ukraine, backed-up by the authorities.LR representatives denied any connection to the transaction and any involvement in the arms trade to the embargo countries.
In 2004, LR was linked to another weapons transfer from Bulgaria to a rebel fighting zone in Congo. The deal was later annulled due to the French government’s intervention in the fighting and its strong request from Israel to instruct Israeli companies to stop assisting the Ivorian authorities. LR associates deny any involvement in the deal. The company also entered the medical field in Ukraine, where it established with a local partner an advanced oncology hospital in a project estimated at $ 70 million.
As of 2016, an international criminal investigation is being conducted regarding the activity of Cellcom Liberia, in which allegedly invited an Israeli-British hacker named Daniel Kaye (30) to carry out a long-range cyber-attack against a competitor in order to disrupt its services. The attack was out of control until, in November 2016, the Liberian government thought the attack was directed against the Liberian state. The hacker testified in his investigation in Germany that the attack was ordered by the CEO of Cellcom Liberia. The controlling shareholder of Cellcom Liberia from its establishment in 2004 until mid-2016 was the LR Group. In January 2019 the hacker Daniel Kaye admitted attacking an African phone company – inadvertently crashing Liberia’s internet – in 2016. He was sentenced for 32 months. Judge Alexander Milne QC said Kaye had committed a “cynical” financial crime. Kaye wept as he was taken down. The National Crime Agency says Kaye is perhaps the most significant cyber criminal yet caught in the UK.
In the early 2000s, the company expanded its businesses into civil sectors such as agriculture, medicine, construction, infrastructure and cellular communications, and established a number of projects in cooperation with the World Bank in Africa and third world countries. Eytan Stibbe retired a few years ago from the partnership, and founded the Miterelli company with Haim Taib.
Eytan Stibbe founded Mitrelli six years ago (2012) with Haim Taib, after ending his long-term partnership with Roy Ben-Yami and Ami Lusting in the LR group. Mitrelli operates in infrastructure projects in various countries, mainly in Angola.
In recent years, Mitrelli built several projects in the sectors of agriculture, water treatment, energy projects, and more. Mitrelli has more than 3,000 employees worldwide and has an annual revenue estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars. Stibbe, is currently also known as the founding partner of the Vital Fund.
Following an examination in the Israeli Registrar of Companies, it was discovered that the Mitrelli Group is owned by the two following firms; NOIT CONSULTING AND PROJECTS (2007) LTD and S.B. HOLDINGS LTD. Further investigation revealed that NOIT CONSULTING AND PROJECTS (2007) LTD is owned by Iris and Haim Taib and was formerly called MITRELLI GROUP (ISRAEL) LTD.
Correspondingly, it was discovered that S.T.B. HOLDINGS LTD is owned by Eytan and Ora Stibbe. In recent years Stibbe has been trying to keep his name out of the arms industry and chooses to promote his philanthropic business, the Vital Fund.
After the Angolan civil war ended in 2002, the need for armaments decreased significantly and the LR group began to engage in other sectors including agriculture, satellites, infrastructure, etc. In order to distance LR’s security activity from the civilian activity, a subsidiary under the name of LRD INTERNATIONAL LIMITED (D = DEFENSE), was established by the LR Group. According to the Panama Papers, LRD INTERNATIONAL LIMITED changed its name in 2016 to HLS International Ltd. According to the documents, the company is registered in Seychelles. In addition, the company has its HQ in Cyprus. The company is owned by a number of other companies.
Same story another country – HLSI in Haiti. Israeli-HLSI taking over the discredited and downsized UN Troops’ Role in Haiti. The unelected Martelly team just, on October 23, 2015 signed a massive border “surveillance” agreement for land, air and sea with an Israeli company identified as HLSI. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Haitian government, represented by Laleau Wilson, the defacto Minister of Economy and the HLSI Israeli firm, represented by its Vice-President Eva Peled. Ms. Peled is a former lieutenant in the Israeli air force and is the CEO of Geomine and Vice President of Mitrelli Group.
According to data found in the Nigerian Registrar of Companies, the company is registered under the name of HLSI Systems & Technology LTD as of July 4, 2017. Based on the abovementioned findings, HLSI Systems & Technology LTD is a subsidiary of HLS International Ltd., Seychelles. It is possible that the company under the name of HLSI Systems & Technology LTD was registered in Nigeria especially for executing the $ 195 million waterways security deal. The fact that the company was registered in 2017 corresponds to the time negotiations on the contract with the Nigeria were taking place. The chairman of HLSI Systems & Technology LTD is Mr. Nasiru Danu. The Manager of HLSI Systems & Technology Ltd. Is Mickey Har Gaash. According to our sources, Israeli citizen Pini Moria is the CEO of the Nigerian-based company HLSI Systems & Technology LTD.
A name that came up as a representative of HLSI in Nigeria was Eva Peled. Eva Peled appears in LinkedIn as the Vice-President at Mitrelli from February 2011 to the present day, concurrently serving as CEO of GEOMINE (a company that specializes in the development of mining technology), and since December 2017 serves as vice president of the Israel-Ivory Coast Chamber of Commerce.