Former DOD official charged with taking kickbacks for work at US base in Djibouti
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 22, 2020
STUTTGART, Germany — A former Defense Department official overseeing construction work at the U.S. military’s hub in Djibouti has been charged with taking kickbacks to help a private contractor obtain $6.4 million in extra government payments.
Nizar Farhat, 63, of Palm Desert, Calif., was charged earlier this month in connection with allegations he received $34,000 in illegal gratuity from a private party while serving in a government position, the U.S. Attorney’s central district office in California said in a statement.
In 2014 and 2015, Farhat oversaw a $15 million contract to construct an aircraft hangar and a telecommunications facility at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, where the Defense Department has spent millions of dollars on upgrades over the past several years.
At the time, Farhat was a construction manager based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. He was shifted to Djibouti on a temporary assignment to handle the project at Camp Lemonnier, federal prosecutors said.
After the projects were completed, the contractor submitted a “requests for equitable adjustment” that sought $6.43 million in additional payments from the Defense Department, prosecutors said.
The indictment alleged that Farhat accepted $20,000 in cash from the company for performing official acts, and recommending that the Navy certify completion of the construction projects and pay the additional $6.43 million the company requested, the Justice Department said.
The indictment also alleges that Farhat took another $14,000 in cash from the company as compensation for advising it and drafting the request for more money. The Justice Department did not identify the company involved.
Camp Lemonnier, which serves as a launching pad for military operations across the Horn of Africa, has steadily expanded over the years.
During Farhat’s time at the base, the hangar project was just a sliver of the work going on. In 2014, there were $500 million in active construction projects underway at Camp Lemonnier, much of which was focused on improving infrastructure for U.S. Air Force operations.