An archival investigation into the past of South African based multinational construction company designated for the K 364 million 3 km stretch on the Zaka – Neno low volume sealed road has revealed that the company has a trail of plunder and blunders.
In our detailed investigation that involved seeking documents in over 6 countries, we unearthed impeccable evidence that people purporting to be representing Romix or being legitimate proxies of the company have been embroiled in corruption; shoddy business dealings using shell companies and that some of the proxies have been of debarred on grounds of regulatory noncompliance in different countries.
Romix Industries prides itself as a global low-cost road construction company and supplier of construction material with footprint across Africa, America, Asia and Europe – claiming to have built roads in North America, India, China, Mauritius, Angola, Kuwait, DRC, Mozambique, Guyana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique and here in Malawi.
Our investigation shows that a trail of plunder and blunders took place in Nigeria, Tanzania, Cyprus, Panama, Australia and the Virgin Islands.
These include the US $ 2.2 million corruption scam involving Romix Soilfix International (Nigeria) in Nigeria, some alleged Romix proxies being implicated in the Panama Papers and the Bahamas Leaks Scandals and the debarment of numerous suspected Romix contractors for regulatory noncompliance in different jurisdictions across the globe.
In an exclusive interview from his South African base, Romix Managing Director Pieter Prinsloo acknowledged some past incidents related to corruption in Nigeria.
However, Prinsloo claimed he was not aware of some events until we presented our findings before him.
Nigerian Corruption Scandal
The official narrative shows that Romix Industries struck a deal with former aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe, to establish a proxy company in Nigeria to benefit from the company’s road construction products between 2004 and 2008 in several Nigerian states.
The company representative allegedly pocked the US $ 2.2 million dollars meant for the construction of 108 km when, media reported, he had only built an 8 km stretch.
This matter remains hot in Nigeria’s political and anti-corruption circles and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is said to be maintaining an active docket on the case.
In his defense, Prinsloo blamed the Nigerian fiasco on a former co-director, John Winters, who left the company in 2011.
He alleges that it was Winters who, allegedly, connived with Dr. Okupe behind his back.
“During 2004, Romix Industries (SA) received a fairly large order from Nigeria. The contract was handled by a former shareholder and Director at that time. We were paid for the products and Romix SA shipped to Nigeria.
“Unbeknown to me, at the time, Mr. Winters proceeded to register this company with Dr. Okupe. I only found about this years later,” said Prinsloo in an email response.
Our efforts to hear from Winters were futile as we could not locate him in either South Africa or Australia where he is reportedly staying.
But Roads Authority CEO Emmanuel Matapa warned the agency would not hesitate to pull the plug on the K364 million contract if it is established that, indeed, the Romix brand is tainted with corruption.
“Bidders are requested to declare if they are under investigations or have any record of corruption, which Romix did not,” he said.
Prinsloo insists those responsible for the Nigerian corruption scam are no longer part of the company.
Of Shell Companies, Panama Papers and Bahamas Leaks
During research, we established that Romix had, among others, gained international leverage because of its product called Soilfix.
The product was certified in several laboratories in South Africa, Australia, Kenya, Swaziland, Kuwait and Cyprus where it gained traction.
Following the trail, we established that some shell companies had ever been established to market the company’s flagship product in some of these countries.
Information sourced from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) shows that Romix International LTD, Romix Trade Corporation and Romix Trade Corp were registered in the Bahamas while Romix Middle East Ltd is registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Romix International is registered to a Michael W. Horton, who has 150 shell companies under his belt, all having a single address.
Records indicate that Romix Trade Corporation and Romix Trade Corp were registered to legal firm, Mossack Fonseca and Company (Bahamas), while Romix Corporation was registered to MMG Bahamas Limited and Romix Middle East LTD was registered in the British Virgin Islands with Maitland as intermediary and “Maitland Nominees” as the company’s shareholders.
According to our initial findings, none of the companies had Mr. Prinsloo as a Director and, with the secrecy shell companies can afford, there was little to tell about the true owners of the alleged Romix surrogates.
Prinsloo actually denies being a willing participant in all the Panama Papers or Bahamas Leaks shenanigans.
However, analysis of the company’s partnerships led to the exposure of linkages between the shell companies named in the Panama Papers and Bahamas Leaks scandals.
Our investigation established that Romix Middle East, registered in the British Virgin Islands, had ever conducted business with Romix.
Ironically, Prinsloo admits to have ever engaged Romix Middle East as the company’s agent, but denies to have sanctioned the company’s establishment.
“We did some work in Kuwait for the US military in 2005 with an agent trading as Romix Middle East, but I never approved registration of this company. I would be curious to find out who the registered directors are, as I am certainly not,” he responded to our written questionnaire via email.
In relation to the Australian registered Romix, Prinsloo said he had only entered into negotiations to partner with an Australian company, Carling Capital Partners, who were interested in his controlling share in Romix Industries.
He alleges, again, that the partners might have duped him, proceeding to register and operate the shell companies without his blessings.
He vehemently denies registering any of the shell companies.
He also told this reporter that had the deal succeeded, the company would have been called Romix International and would have been registered in Australia.
We, however, found that there were actually shell companies bearing a name striking some semblance to that of Romix International, as he had hinted.
Upon further research, we found Romix International SA, Luxembourg and Romix International Inc (Panama) in offshore registries but registered to anonymous nominee directors, sending our probe into the people behind the shell companies to a shuddering halt.
Breakthrough Evidence of Romix Shell Companies
Having hit a snug in establishing the names behind the disowned Romix shell companies, we trailed association created by product usage. We traced if any of the companies used the company’s flagship road making product, Soilfix.
While the South African Romix claim to be the legitimate owners of Soilfix, their signature soil stabilizing chemical, the product seems to have drawn much attention so much so that some shell companies were formed with the specific product in mind.
The journalist established that Romix Soilfix International (Nigeria) Limited, US-based Romix Soilfix International (USA) Inc, Romix Technologies Limited and Romix Far East Limited are some of the off shore companies that show tell-tale signs of a possible closer link with the main company.
They are all linked by Soilfix – either in the name or after appearing in official records as the licensed traders of the product.
Outcomes of investigations by this reporter show Nigeria’s Okupe owns Romix Soilfix International (Nigerian) Limited and, allegedly, Romix Soilfix International (USA) Inc although records show the now inactive US-based company was registered under the name of Ojong Odidi, a proxy based in Georgia.
We also have information that Israeli national Ilan Salma owned Romix Technologies Limited which was registered under the name of nominee director White Michael before it was scrapped off the Cyprus company registry 2 years ago.
Salma’s company was an offshoot of Okupe’s Romix after falling out in the wake of the Nigerian scandal, according to media reports.
Also, both Okupe and Salma are reputed to have been partners of Prinsloo’s colleague in the early 2000 when they all worked on roads construction in Nigeria.
Although the reporter had failed to create a link between a shell company called Romix Far East and the mother company, by tracking association by product usage, we managed to obtain evidence of linkage from Indian government issued documents.
Documents obtained from the India’s Roads Congress (IRC) offered a permit to Romix Far East to market the company’s Soilfix, also trading as Technology International LTD.
How Romix Far East re-emerged in India after being deregistered in Australia in 2006, trading Romix Soilfix product is a puzzling coincidence.
While Mr. Prinsloo denies knowing about the registration and operations of the shell companies, we have established that,
other than in India, a Chinese University also conducted a research on the efficiency of Soilfix SRX.
Ironically, the university reports to have obtained the used Soilfix during the research from a Romix International Limited.
The China research by the Scientific Research of Central Colleges of China for Chang’an University was conducted in 2016 and the paper finally got published in the International Journal of Pavement Engineering, Volume 20, (2019).
While others folded, some kept resurrecting, in the same jurisdiction. We have seen that an Australian firm, Romix International LTD, was registered as an International Business Corporation in 2014, after being de-registered earlier in 2005.
Some shell companies purportedly linked to Romix we uncovered in our investigation are long gone – some through de-registered for failure to comply with regulations, others went into voluntary liquidation and some simply went bankrupt, according to records we have seen.
During our research on Romix’s global footprint, this reporter found out that some proxy companies – some with links with the mother company, others untraceable – had suffered unceremonious debarment in Australia, British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, Bahamas, Panama, Tanzania and Australia, among others, due to non-compliance on regulatory issues.
Closer to home, just last month, the Tanzanian government through the construction regulator – Contractors Registration Board (CRB) – deregistered an alleged proxy company of Romix, registered by civil engineer Peter Marwa as Romix (Tanzania) Limited.
“We wish to inform all clients, consultants and the general public that the following contractors have been deleted from our register of contractors with effect from 01.10.2019 in accordance with subsection 13 (1) (b) (c) and (d) and 15 (1) (c) respectively of the contractors registration Act Cap 235 R.E. 2002,” reads part of the statement released by Tanzania’s CRB a copy of which we have in our possession.
Again, Prinsloo is shocked. He, however, celebrates the shutdown of knock off Romix firm: “This is a complete fraud and I am shocked to learn about it. Romix used to do business in Tanzania with a local company called ETC. Peter was an engineer working for them. I knew him very well. We are no longer actively involved in Tanzania because another previous Director of Romix Nick Muller opened his company there.”
Prinsloo emphasizes that the company’s soiled past is a result of crooked partners, hell bent at profiting at all costs and he insists he is innocent in all this.
~ iHubOnline 2019