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INVESTIGATION: Notorious arms dealer, wanted in Nigeria, lands multi-million dollar deal in Senegal

Article written by Chikezie Omeje.

A contract seen by OCCRP shows how Aboubakar Hima, who allegedly skimmed millions from $240 million in corrupt arms deals in his native Niger, may be up to his old tricks further from home.

At the beginning of this year, a Senegalese state agency signed a deal to purchase $77 million worth of assault rifles, semi-automatic pistols, ammunition, and other weapons from a little-known local firm that had only been set up a couple of months earlier.

A Senegalese army tank drives through the border of Guinea Bissau and Senegal in the Casamance region. Credit: Ami Vitale/Alamy Stock Photo

The contract was unusual in other ways, too. The agency that bought the arms was not the military, but the Environment Ministry. Still, the contract was never put out to bid, and once the deal was signed it was kept quiet, ostensibly due to Senegal’s defense security law. But OCCRP, in partnership with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, learned of the deal and obtained a copy of the contract.

The supplier of the arms, Lavie Commercial Brokers, turns out to have been set up by the notorious West African businessman Aboubakar Hima, who is suspected of siphoning millions from inflated arms deals in Nigeria and his home country of Niger. An expert who discussed the Senegal deal with OCCRP reporters said irregularities in the contract suggested its price might also have been inflated.

Hima, who is often known by the nickname “Petit Boubé,” is no stranger to controversy. He has had some of his millions seized by the U.S. and South African authorities over illicit arms deals, and is wanted in Nigeria for his alleged role in making fraudulent arms deals with the government. In 2020, OCCRP revealed that a Nigerien government audit found Hima had brokered corrupt arms deals worth $240 million.

Aboubakar Hima

Perhaps conscious of his own notoriety, Hima may have sought to disguise his involvement in the Senegalese arms contract. While he is the only person named on registration documents for Lavie Commercial Brokers, the contract was signed on his firm’s behalf by Israel-based David Benzaquen, the company’s general manager.

Benzaquen founded an Israeli company called Lavie Strategies, which is licensed to export weapons by Israel’s Ministry of Defense. He is a former employee of Israeli arms dealer Gabi Peretz, a close friend of Senegal’s President Macky Sall. Peretz is known to supply military equipment to countries in West and Central Africa. Around the time that Hima’s firm obtained the Senegal contract, Peretz offered a 300-million-euro credit line to the Senegalese military,  according to the Africa Intelligence news outlet.

Source: Premium Times Nigeria. Culled from Premium Times.

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