In first, Israeli company convicted of bribing foreign official

NIP Global fined by Tel Aviv court for paying ministry director general in Lesotho to advance business interests

Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. An Israeli company was convicted for bribing a government official of the African country. (CC BY, OER Africa, Flickr)
Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. An Israeli company was convicted for bribing a government official of the African country. (CC BY, OER Africa, Flickr)

An Israeli company was found guilty on Thursday by a local court for bribing an African official in order to advance its business interests there.

As part of a plea deal, NIP Global, also known as Nikuv, was fined NIS 4.5 million ($1.15 million) by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for bribing a government official from Lesotho.

The court noted that the case was the first time that an Israeli company has been convicted of bribing a foreign official, which is a criminal offense under Israeli law.

The Herzliya-based company produces high-tech identification cards and products for population registration, border control and similar fields.

In 2012, NIP Global signed a $30 million deal with the government of Lesotho to sell the African kingdom its products.

Prior to reaching the agreement, the company hired a local mediator, Motsotuoa Makoa, who put representatives of NIP Global in touch with Retselisitsoe Khetsi, the director general of Lesotho’s interior ministry.

In exchange for advancing its business interests in the country, the company paid the mediator $500,000, with a significant amount of that sum intended for Khetsi.

Both Khetsi and Makoa were charged in Lesotho over the affair.

In addition to the fine and forfeiture of assets, the company is obligated as part of the plea deal to cooperate with law enforcement in Lesotho investigating the case, as well as revise its internal policies in order to prevent future cases of bribery.

Prosecutor Jonathan Tadmor described the ruling in a statement released by the Justice Ministry as precedent setting, saying that it will act as “a significant warning sign for individuals and companies operating overseas that the State of Israel will fight against economic delinquency and the phenomenon of corruption” worldwide.

Lesotho Interior Minister Joang Molapo, who canceled the contract with NIP Global over what he called “exorbitant” fees, told a court in Lesotho in 2014 that officials from the firm had also tried to bribe him to resolve a billing dispute, according to the Lesotho Times.

Another ministry official was questioned by police in Lesotho over allegations the Israeli company had loaned him NIS 46,000 ($12,000).

A spokesperson for NIP said that the company had garnered a spotless reputation along the years.

“Recently the company signed a plea bargain for an event occurred in Lesotho. Although the incident occurred at the initiative of a foreign representative, the Company took a full responsibility for the actions, produced all the necessary lessons and tightened enforcement and compliance provisions in order to prevent recurrence of such incidents in the future,” she said.

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