*Can Buhari prosecute his friends indicted in the scandal?
*Obasanjo, Abdulsalam, Atiku, PDP, Dan Etete, Chris Garuba, Gauis Obaseki runs in the mill
By Olajide Fashikun with Agency reports
Ayodeji, Chukwujekwu and Modibbo are friends. With the re-introduction of “Nigerian History” to the secondary school curriculum were taught by their teacher, Mrs. Florence Akume, gave a teaser of the next week’s lesson that, ‘Nigerian leaders are bribe takers’. The nationalistic fervor took the better part of them. The argument went to and fro. They went into the library both in hardcopy and online and found out three former presidents: Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Sani Abacha, Abdulsalam Abubakar and Atiku Abubakar were listed among an A-list of the nations political and business elite in a scandal called Haliburton.
Shocked. Petrified. Angry. They read and met in the evening before games in their boarding house regimen. Modibbo squealed at
Ayodeji, “they received millions of dollars in bribes from American and European contractors that were retained to build Africa’s first liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny, Rivers State.”
Chukwujekwu said in his own finding. Another General who came with Daniel had the sword of justice and a gavel, his name was written as Muhammadu Buhari. Records before his court of judgement was a vast and formalised bribery scheme. It had a long list of ministers, bureaucrats, top politicians, state and local officials. Former oil minister Dan Etete led the second grade list.
Welcome to HSBC, the bribe bank: Leaked records from HSBC, a huge global bank based in London, reveal new details about the bank’s role as the conduit for the bribes — and new details about how Tesler operated. The files, obtained by the French newspaper Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, show ties between Tesler and high-ranking Nigerians not previously named publicly in connection with the scandal, raising the possibility of renewed questions about Nigeria’s handling of the affair.
Cast of criminal characters: The leaders who were saddled with the nation’s interests received stacks of US dollar bills in briefcases bullion vans depending on where they stood in the hierarchy of the dirty Dollars.
Some got their payoffs via electronic bank transfers from financial institutions. One of such named is Citibank.
These are supposed to be eminent Nigerians. They accepted, N27 billion in bribes from the American oil service companies. Halliburton anchored the deal in exchange for billions of
dollars in contracts to build our liquefied natural gas plant.
American investigation: Chukwujekwu read also that the American government pursued their own citizens and corporations, especially, the oil services company Halliburton. Some went to jail. Some got the funds confiscated. Halliburton agreed to pay $579 million in fines and many of its agents attended long jail terms.
Before Buhari, the Americans made their findings available to Nigerian authorities. Nothing was done to pursue, investigate, prosecute or sanction those indicted in this scandal. Officials of government rather justified their filthy reputation as probably, the world’s leading cesspit and theatre for corruption and unrestrained graft.
How did it all started? Dateline was 1994, bids were submitted to build Africa’s first liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny, Rivers State, at a cost of $6 billion.
A joint venture company, TSKJ, formed in equal partnership between a French engineering company, Technip; an Italian engineering company, Snamprogetti; a US engineering company, KBR, of the Halliburton group and the Japanese engineering and construction company, JGC was
formed. Between these four companies, the designed a product called “amplified corruption” which they exported to Nigeria. Customs could not stop them. They unleashed it and pronto! Tsunamic magnitude of unknown official corruption was delivered bigger than the size of` the gas plant. They knew these Nigerians cannot resist being corrupted.
As soon as TSKJ was formed, it set up three companies registered in Madeira, Portugal to recruit two “consulting companies,” Tri-Star Investment Ltd, and Marubeni Inc, with the
mandate to undertake the bribe scheme of the Nigerians. Their mandate was to reach “officials of the executive branch of government, NNPC and NLNG officials, and political party leaders,” according to a sealed indictment filed at the United States District Court in Houston, Texas.
Three early decisions taken by TSKJ were: hiring a British lawyer, Jeffery Tesler, to coordinate the affairs of TriStar; signing up Wojciech Chodan, an American deal maker resident in the UK to assist him and contracting Messrs Matsuda, Endo, and Lida to run Marubeni.
According to the court deposition of Mr. Tesler, in a clinical application of the principles of division of labour, TSKJ mandated the Tri-Star team, which it disingenuously called “cultural advisors,” to focus only on bribing the “senior level officials”, while the Marubeni team was instructed to restrict itself to bribing the “lower level Nigerian officials.”
While Tristar was incorporated in Gibraltar and had a budget of $130 million; Marubeni, was incorporated in Japan, she had a budget of $50 million.
Bribery in a customary manner
Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s late Head of State, was the first significant point of contact for the TSKJ team, according to lawyers of the United States department of justice, who claimed in court depositions that, in August 1994, the CEO of KBR, Albert Jackson Stanley and top executives of TSKJ struck an agreement with Abacha “to do business in a customary manner.”
Towards this end, a “cultural committee” of the sales and senior personnel officers of the four joint venture companies, as well as agents of Marubeni was put together to “consider how to implement, but hide, the scheme to pay bribes” to Nigerian officials.
The “cultural committee” in October 1994 worked out a programme of what it called “the downloading and offloading of payments through subcontractors and vendors.”
According to the U. S. Department of Justice, once a plan of how to distribute the bribes and a scheme to evade US bank monitors were resolved, the “cultural committee” gave Mr. Tesler the green light to meet the then petroleum minister, Dan Etete, to discuss and agree on the modalities.
This meeting held on the 2nd November 1994, when Mr. Tesler handed Mr. Etete the bribe schema to secure Train 1 and Train 2 of the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) contract.
It was made clear that $60 million was available to be shared. Out of this, $40 million would go to Abacha, while others would have to scramble for the remaining $20million.
A cultural committee to manage the graft
Keeping faith with the grand plan of the cultural committee, Mr. Stanley, the CEO of KBR, who was handpicked for this job by former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, rushed to Abuja three weeks after the 2nd November meeting , to confirm if Abacha was comfortable with Tesler as a go-between.
Once this was understood on both sides, a series of decisions was made ahead of the signing of the Train 1 and Train 2 contracts.
In January 1995, Chodan and Stanley agreed to exclude any US citizens from participating in the bribe scheme. In March of the same year, TSKJ formally signed the $60 million contract with TriStar.
Furthermore, in December, TSKJ paid TriStar $1.5 million as commission for its “services,” and in April 1996, TSKJ formally signed a $29 million contract with Marubeni to settle the “lower level Nigerian officials.”
According to filings in the Houston District court, by the time the Train 1 and Train 2 contracts had been signed, Mr.Tesler himself wired $63,000 into a Swiss account of Mr. Etete.
French police prosecutors have determined that around the same time, in order to cover up his tracks, he also opened negotiations with Etete to purchase five per cent of the then minister’s holding in the OPL 245 Malibu oil block.
For this deal, Mr. Tesler wired a total of $2.5 million into the accounts of the former minister through the TriStar accounts.
Mr. Etete used three different names, according to the deposition, his personal name or Buzaki Etete, or one Omoni Amafegha, who Mr. Tesler told the French Court was a listed name on the board of Malibu.
Dele Adesina, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Mr. Etete’s lawyer in respect of the Malabu oil block licence which the Obasanjo administration revoked in 1999, would not comment on this matter when asked.
He said: “I was only retained with respect of the revocation of the Malabu block; I have absolutely no knowledge of Mr. Tesler.”
Mr. Tesler’s brief was to make sure things moved smoothly. A key challenge at this point was unfettered access to Abacha at that time, and as he told French investigators, the man who made this possible was the former Inspector General of Police, M. D. Yusuf, who later became Chairman of the NLNG.
Mr. Tesler claimed he “downloaded $75,000 in two installments” into Yusuf’s pocket for this purpose. Information on the former policeman’s involvement in the TSKJ scandal, is not new.
In 2004, a House of Representatives Committee headed by Chudi Offodile investigated the NLNG contract, it found out that Mr. Yusuf as NLNG chairman acted improperly in favour of TSKJ.
Petroleum minister at the time, Don Etiebet, had sought to ensure fair play in the contract bid between TSKJ, and the only other competitor, BCSA.
It “appeared that a decision had been taken even before the Board meeting of 24th September 1994″ that determined the contract, the Offodile report stated.
What happened after Trains 1 and 2? Having put the Train 1 and 2 contracts in the can, TSKJ turned its gaze on the Train 3 contract. For this, Stanley flew to Abuja again in the second quarter of 1997, with the sole mission of asking Abacha to recommend a trusted front man to collect his bribe.
Shortly after he died on the 8th June, 1998, Tesler promptly erased him from the list of bribe beneficiaries, substituting him with the new helmsman, Abdulsalami Abubakar.
To keep the entire scheme on the rails, Stanley flew back to Abuja on the 28th February 1999, asking General Abubakar, to recommend a trusted front man to collect his bribe.
The 1999 election fever spreads cold: With an election already fixed for May 1999, TSKJ was anxious to wrap up the Train 3 contract before a change of power in Abuja.
Another meeting was held in London on the 5th March 1999, to come up with a strategy to achieve this objective.
One week after, TSKJ won the Train 3 contract for $1.2 billion. On the 18th March, 1999, TSKJ paid a kickback of $32.5 million into TriStar’s account, to bribe the Nigerian officials who facilitated the award of the contract.
Even though “the lower class officials” were eventually catered for in the bribe scheme, they always got the short end of the stick.
Thus, while the senior Nigerian officials had their bribes promptly paid, it took one year after TSKJ had signed the Train 3 contract before Marubeni lined the pockets of the lower class officials.
Computing the pay-offs up to January 2001, American prosecutors believe that a $2.5 million bribe was “off loaded” directly to the Swiss account of Abubakar’s frontman.
After the transition to civil rule in 1999, the United States Department of Justice attorneys stated that Mr. Stanley met with the new President, Olusegun Obasanjo and the then Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Gauis Obaseki, in Abuja on 11th November, 2001, to designate “a representative with whom the joint venture [TSKJ] should negotiate the [obligatory] bribes in support of the award of the [forthcoming] Trains 4 and 5 contracts.”
One month later, on the 20th December in London, Obaseki met Chodan and Stanley over lunch, to discuss the details of the Trains 4 and 5 contracts.
On Christmas Eve, TSKJ signed a $51 million deal with TriStar, to bribe Nigerian officials for the Trains 4 and 5 contracts.
Three months later, in March 2002, TSKJ won the Train 4 and 5 contract for $3.6 billion.
Taking care of the political big boys
Following the signing of contracts for Trains 4 and 5, all seemed to be going well between the new administration and TSKJ.
June 2002 would turn out to be a significant month in this narrative of sleaze between TSKJ and Nigerian government officials.
That month, TSKJ signed another $25 million contract with Marubeni to settle the bribes of the low cadre officials for the Trains 4 and 5 of the NLNG project.
It also signed a $23 million contract with TriStar to bribe the top officials for the Train 6 project.
The former NNPC’s GMD’s message to the meeting, according to Mr. Tesler’s indictment papers, was that the time had come to bring in the political boys.
Even PDP gods too took bribe: Apparently, the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are the gods whose worship sites needs libations before they know of the scheme and get angry, thus, they needed to be appeased.
Indictment records from both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States attorneys showed that in August 2002, Mr. Tesler wired $5 million to the account of a Port Harcourt based sub-contractor named Intels Energy Limited.
The money was received in the company’s account with Citibank Nigeria.
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua are alleged to have substantial interests in Intels Energy Limited. Intels, according to our investigations, was the key sub contractor for Marubeni in bribing the lower level officials of the NNPC and NLNG.
Bullion van bribery
Both the Department of Justice and the Security and Exchange Commission’s attorneys, corroborated each other’s claim that $1million in $100 bills was deposited “to the NNPC official” at the NICON Hilton Hotel in a “pilot’s briefcase” for onward delivery to the PDP before the 2003 general elections.
The remaining $4 million was, according to the court filings, delivered in Naira in a bullion van.
Audu Ogbe who was the PDP chairman at the time denied any knowledge of this and loudly called for an investigation.
Titanic-sized corruption: The intricate planning, the massive scale and the careful sophistication of TSKJ’s clinical web of corruption is certainly titanic in size. It’s capacity can be appreciated because the fingers of three successive heads of state with a VeePee in tow, coupled with the elaborate scheme to set up legalised corrupting agencies for lower and senior officials, stands out in the annals of official corruption in Nigeria.
The greed of the Nigerian ruling class was identified, reworked and exploited. It was broken down into its constituent parts: political, bureaucratic and technocratic so as to isolate the beneficiaries of the graft.
TSKJ came fully prepared and well primed to sustaining this code named scheme over the decade it would take to come to fruition.
The multijurisdictional impact of the corruption is still unprecedented in Nigeria. Question is, can Muhammadu Buhari’s administration rein in on the actors of the Halliburton Nollywood film Season VI? Given the roles of these actors in the emergence of his Presidency.
I regret my corrupting tendencies: “There is no day when I do not regret my weakness of character,” said the contrite British lawyer, Jeffery Tesler, in a Houston courtroom. His reverberating voice cooed: “I allowed myself to accept standards of behaviour in a business culture which can never be justified. I accepted the system of corruption that existed in Nigeria. I turned a blind eye to what was happening, and I am guilty of the offenses charged.”
He spoke at the end of his 2012 sentence and hearing after pleading guilty to U.S. corruption charges for his role in the Halliburton bribery scandal. In 2010 Nigeria indicted former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was CEO of Halliburton before he was elected, only to later clear him when Halliburton worked out a $35 million settlement.
What Halliburton represents in Nigeria: To an average Nigerian, converting the bribe sum into the bastardised local currency, Naira, makes the whole episode a massive but seemingly unbelievable story. There is no doubt however that, in terms of the personalities and the amount of money involved in Halliburton, it is probably the biggest scandal in Nigeria’s history of corruption and bribery.
The leaked HSBC files reveal that Tesler had financial ties to two former Nigerian officials: now-retired Major General Chris Garuba, chief of staff to former Nigerian president Abdulsalami Abubakar who himself allegedly received bribes as president; and Andrew Agom, a senior government official who was killed in an attack on a motorcade.
Bank staff also responded to a request from Agom’s widow to unfreeze her husband’s account, whose post was sent to Tesler’s North London law firm and which was marked as subject to criminal investigations into Tesler. The files do not indicate whether or not the account was ultimately unfrozen.
Garuba, a former governor of Bauchi state, emerged as the chairman of Obekpa Petroleum, a Nigerian oil company. Before his death, Agom was a board member of the People’s Democratic Party, which controlled the government when this affair unfolded.
Agom was the beneficial owner of an HSBC account linked to a Gibraltar-based company, Hemisphere Services Limited, which held a maximum amount of $797,377 at one point in 2006 or 2007. Africa Confidential magazine previously named a company named Hemisphere Services (Nigeria) as a “recipient of largesse” from Tesler after viewing documents disclosed to the magazine during a French corruption investigation.
Agom’s account was opened in 1991, on the same day that an account was opened in the name of former Nigerian Air Force Chief, Abdullahi Dominic Bello. A Nigerian government investigator has previously described Swiss accounts held by Bello as a conduit for “slush funds”. The investigator did not specifically mention HSBC.
A spokesman for Bello told ICIJ that the account, which was used for business purposes and opened by Tesler when he was Bello’s lawyer, had never been used for slush funds or bribes. “At no point has Mr. Bello been charged to any court over the bribery scandal,” said the spokesman, adding that, “it must be a coincidence that Mr. Agom and [Bello’s company] opened an account the same day.”
The HSBC files identify Chris Garuba and his wife Rita as HSBC clients; their names are listed along with Tesler’s in an account named Bridlington Enterprises Limited, for which Tesler acted as an attorney. The files show that the account was opened the year before Tesler sent his first bribe payment to Switzerland, although the files do not show that Tesler transferred money into the Bridlington account, which held as much as $367,547 in 2006 or 2007.
Chris and Rita Garuba did not respond to ICIJ’s requests for comment.
Tesler was sentenced to 21 months in prison and he forfeited $149 million from his Swiss accounts to the U.S. government for serving as the go-between for bribes paid to secure contracts for KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary, and the other consortium members, the Japanese firm JGC Corporation, Paris-based Technip, as well as Italy’s ENI S.p.A. and its Dutch subsidiary Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. The forfeited money is what the American government promised to pay the Buhari administration if the government will commence the prosecution of those who are indicted in the deal.
Obasanjo’s private meeting with Buhari: The increased pressure of the American government on the Buhari administration may have been responsible for the “private meeting” of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhmmadu Buhari during the week.
In previous years, anti-corruption campaigners had called on authorities to identify and prosecute Nigerian citizens involved in the scandal. A 2010 Nigerian government document reportedly included three Nigerian presidents, a vice-president, a minister, intelligence chiefs and corporate titans in the list of bribery beneficiaries. The report did not name Garuba nor Agom.
Before Tesler became a born-again: Between 2009 and 2011, the consortium members paid penalties totaling more than $1.5 billion for their role in the bribery scheme. Two KBR officials who had worked with Tesler, Wojciech Chodan and Albert (Jack) Stanley, KBR’s former chairman and CEO, were sentenced to one year of probation and 30 months in prison, respectively.
Cheney had been chairman and chief executive of Halliburton, the parent company of KBR, for five years — from 1995 to 2000 — before becoming U.S. vice-president in 2001.
Cheney’s lawyer has asserted repeatedly that his client was not involved. “The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated that joint venture extensively and found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton,” attorney Terrence O’Donnell wrote in a 2010 statement to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Tesler, now 66, has served his sentence and returned to England, where he told authorities he would “spend the last few years, which God may graciously grant me, to seek forgiveness.”
Culled from gongnews.net