• OBJ, IBB, Abdusalami, Atiku under watch
THE directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to re-open the Halliburton and Siemens bribe scandals has been generating fears in some quarters. The fears are portrayed by the reality that the indicted suspects, according to available reports, are mostly past leaders of this country who may be compelled to face justice.
The re-opening of the cases in Nigeria is however, is coming many years after the counterparts of the Nigerian leaders indicted in the bribery scandals in the United States of America (USA) have been prosecuted and those found guilty sentenced to different terms of imprisonment.
Details of the pending cases indicate that if Buhari has the courage to prosecute the indicted suspects religiously, certain prominent past leaders may find themselves either in jail on conviction, be forced to make refunds or pay fines.
Buhari’s major challenge in these corruption cases is his level of courage and ability to go after the high profile personalities linked with the scam and ensure that justice is accordingly administered.
It was gathered that when former President Goodluck Jonathan gave the order that “the investigative report into the $180 million Halliburton bribery scandal be re-opened and the major culprits re-arrested,” that the directive made him enemy of two former heads of state who were revealed in the investigative report to have benefitted from the sharing of the Halliburton bribe money using fronts who confessed that they were only fronting for their principals.
There are indications that the scandal which has passed through year 1994 under General Abubakar Abdusalami administration to 2004 under President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, entails bribes by Kellogg, Brown and Root, KBR, Halliburton subsidiary to secure the $6 billion contract to build the Bonny Island Natural Liquefied Gas Project for the Federal Government.
The investigative report show that “A network of secretive banks and offshore tax havens was used to channel US$182 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in exchange for US$6 billion in engineering and construction work for an international consortium of companies that includes a then Halliburton subsidiary.”
HSBC Bank in London was disclosed to be the conduit for the bribes.
A prominent name in the United Kingdom (UK) had featured constantly in the Halliburton scandal. Essentially, Jeffrey Tesler, a UK-based lawyer, was indicted for having very close ties with corrupt leaders in Nigeria. He was said to be reputable in the estate business in Nigeria.
Jeffrey Tesler is highly linked with bribery deals. He was even alleged to have, at a point, “had a duffel bag with $1 million dropped off at a luxury hotel, the Foyer, in Abuja.”
It was gathered that, “Leaked files reveal that Tesler had financial ties to two former Nigeria officials, namely, retired Major General Chris Garuba, Chief of Staff to former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who allegedly received bribes as President; and Andrew Agom, a senior government official, who was killed in an attack on a motorcade.”
The report had further indicated: “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. Before his death, Agom was a board member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which controlled the federal government when the dirty deals were unfolded.”
The files, obtained by the French newspaper Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), 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.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar were among those implicated in the Halliburton bribery scandal when the federal government was handed the report between 1999 and 2007. More so, a former Nigerian Air Force Chief, Abdullahi Dominic Bello, was disclosed to have implicated Swiss bank accounts involved in the dealings.
It has been indicatd that the Halliburton bribery scandal was so large that even the former US Vice President, Dick Cheney (Bush’s Dick), former company CEO, was indicted by Nigeria and cleared after Halliburton worked out a $35 million settlement. ($35 million that remains unaccounted for).
Also, a former KBR Inc. (Halliburton subsidiary) chief executive received two and a half years in prison, three years probation and $1000/month to be paid in restitution in 2012 for his role in the scandal. KBR paid a $402 million criminal fine to the US Government for foreign bribery. “KBR and Halliburton also paid $177 million to settle civil complaints related to the bribery.”
Lawyer Tesler was also charged in a French corruption investigation and served his sentence.
Years after the scandal, there has been no action in Nigerian to bring the culprit to book.
The US Government had in 2010 insisted that those indicted in the Halliburton bribery scandal must be brought to book before the $130 million in US coffers can be returned to Nigeria.
President Jonathan had succumbed to the US pressure and directed the Police to resuscitate the investigative report of the $180 million Halliburton scam and re-arrest those indicted for prosecution. The former President appeared frustrated when the directive to re-open the investigative report on the Halliburton bribery scandal allegedly pitched him against two former heads of state, Obasanjo and Abdusalami.
Again, the US Government has put President Buhari under pressure to re-open the Halliburton/ Siemens bribery scandal in exchange for the US support to repatriate about $140 million bribe money recovered from the culprits in the scandal outside the shores of Nigeria.
The new anti-corruption war puts Buhari in very tight corner of hunting those who played crucial roles in his victory in the March 28, 2015 Presidential Election.
Meanwhile, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has lauded the efforts of the EFCC to reopen the investigation into the $180 million Siemens, Halliburton scam, saying it will ensure diligent prosecution of all culprits and it will enable the nation to get more of the looted funds from the United States.
CACOL, in a statement by its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran, commended the EFCC under the administration of its acting Executive Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, for reopening the bribery scandal cases as it is a way of ensuring that all those who participated in the bribery scam are investigated and charged to court. This he said, “was practically demonstrated when the EFCC had to send somebody down from Abuja to make CACOL adopt the petition it wrote since 2011,” noting: “That signals the seriousness to which the EFCC is treating the case.”
Adeniran highlighted that, “it was only a few of them that came to the open during the previous investigations. Some powerful names were mentioned which include former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Vice-president Artiku Abubarkar and some companies that belong to the former Head of State, Abdusalami Abubarkar. $110 million was reportedly received during former President Olusegun Obasanjo tenure. The companies that belong to the former Head of State, we also learnt from reliable sources paid their way out of prosecution and that is why CACOL is insisting that Obasanjo and others should be called and intensively interrogated over their involvement in the international bribery scandal. The amount involved could have been staggering which led to none proseque of all the companies that were involved in the Siemens, Halliburton cases.”
Adeniran maintained: “The EFCC showed initial enthusiasm to prosecute the culprits until we discovered the involvement of the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the then Attorney-General of the Federation. Justice Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN negotiated the prosecution out and made it impossible for the EFCC to prosecute the case. That was where they were able to get a refund of $240 million which they claimed they got through plea-bargains.”