Source: Sahara Reporters
In a surprising turn of events, the multi-billion-naira firm responsible for the construction of the much-anticipated Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway has raised eyebrows due to its owner’s alleged criminal record. Hitech Road Construction Company, a subsidiary of Hitech Construction Company, is owned by Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian-Lebanese developer with a history shrouded in controversy.
The Nigerian government recently unveiled plans for the ambitious Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project. According to David Umahi, the Minister of Works, Hitech Construction will be financing this project through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.
Hitech Construction is just one division of the Chagoury Group, a vast business conglomerate presided over by Gilbert Chagoury. What adds to the intrigue is Chagoury’s well-known association with Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, raising questions about potential conflicts of interest.
One of Chagoury’s most prominent projects in Nigeria is Eko Atlantic in Lagos, a massive real estate development. However, his past has been marred by allegations of criminal activity. He was previously banned from obtaining a visa by the United States on terrorism grounds, accused of funding a political coalition, Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
Chagoury has also faced accusations of involvement in drug dealings by both the U.S. and Lebanese governments. The Los Angeles Times delved into his background in an August 30, 2016, report, suggesting that his visa troubles may be connected to his support for a Christian Lebanese politician, Michel Aoun, who was part of the same political coalition as Hezbollah.
Chagoury’s relationship with the Clintons has also come under scrutiny. He donated an estimated $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, despite being a non-citizen forbidden by law to make such contributions to U.S. politicians. This raised concerns of a “pay-for-play” scheme between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.
Furthermore, Chagoury attempted to fund the election campaigns of various U.S. politicians between 2012 and 2016, including Republicans and Jeff Fortenberry. Fortenberry was later convicted of concealing information and making false statements related to illegal contributions made by Chagoury, a foreign national, to his re-election campaign. Fortenberry eventually resigned from office.
In 2019, Chagoury reportedly paid $1.8 million in fines to resolve the investigation into his campaign contributions. Born in Nigeria to Lebanese immigrants, Chagoury rose to prominence in the 1990s through his association with the late dictator, Sani Abacha, securing development deals and oil franchises.
After Abacha’s death in 1998, the Nigerian government sought to recover funds stolen through Abacha’s associates, leading to bank accounts worldwide, some controlled by Gilbert Chagoury. In 2000, a Swiss court convicted him of laundering some of these funds and he agreed to pay a hefty fine and return $66 million to the Nigerian government, although he denied knowledge of the funds’ stolen origin.
Chagoury eventually returned to Nigeria in the early 2000s and became a business partner with Tinubu, who was then the governor of Lagos State. This controversial figure’s involvement in major infrastructure projects like the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway has raised significant concerns about transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s public-private partnerships.