N27bn Halliburton fraud: Jonathan set to prosecute politicians
Over three years after 80 persons including foreigners and Nigerians were indicted by US law enforcement officials in the N27 billion Halliburton bribery scandal, fresh pressure has been mounted on President Goodluck Jonathan by some of his political allies to prosecute the suspects. Political Economist reported recently that the US government had mounted pressure on the Nigerian government to prosecute those fingered in the bung. The US government had already prosecuted and jailed US citizens involved in the scam after they openly admitted to bribing some Nigerian officials to get a juicy oil and gas contract.
This time round, pressure is being mounted on Jonathan to swing into action and prosecute the suspects as a strategy to neutralize those who have recently constituted themselves into an opposition force against Jonathan’s 2015 presidential election bid.
Some of the accused persons in the scam have jumped ship to the opposition APC. “The President is considering a possible prosecution of the indicted politicians some of whom have been romancing with the opposition to the detriment of the ruling PDP. It is something that could happen in a matter of two or three months”, a Presidency source squealed to our reporter.
In 2012, a former chief executive officer of KBR Incorporated, a subsidiary of Halliburton, Albert “Jack” Stanley, was sentenced to 30 months in prison by a US court for his role in the massive, decade-long Halliburton bribery scandal in Nigeria.
Top Nigerian government officials were allegedly offered bribes totalling $180 million by Halliburton, a US oil services firm, to enable it win $6 billion Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) contracts.
Stanley, 69, who pleaded guilty in September 2008 in the scheme awaited sentencing after 16 adjournments .
“The misconduct here was serious, ongoing and deeply hurtful,” U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison said before handing down Stanley’s sentence, which also includes three years of probation.
Earlier before Stanley’s sentence, Ellison gave a former KBR consultant a 21-month prison sentence for acting as a middle-man to channel bribes to Nigerian officials on behalf of KBR and three other members of a Portugal-based consortium called TSKJ.
Jeffrey Tesler, 63, a consultant and lawyer, had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate and one count of violating the bribery law known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Diplomatic sources told our reporter that the US government was miffed at the lack of commitment of the Nigerian government to fight crime. “The Obama administration is not happy with the manner Nigerian government is handling the Halliburton matter”, the source said, adding “Washington has conveyed its disappointment to Abuja and expects the Nigerian government to take action on the Halliburton matter and on other proven cases of corruption”.
In 2010, 80 foreigners and Nigerians, including the living and the dead, among them four former Heads of State and two of their wives, as well as former Governors and Ministers were indicted by the United States law enforcement officials over the N27 billion Halliburton bribery scandal.
Among the foreigners are Jack Chagoury, Gilbert Chagoury, and T.W. Oerlemans, an Australian. Among the Nigerians indicted were former Nigerian Heads of State Ibrahim Babangida, the late Sani Abacha, Ernest Shonekan, and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Maryam, the late wife of Babangida; Mariam, the wife of the late Abacha, and his son, the late Ibrahim, were also included; likewise Mike Akhigbe, the second in command in the Abdulsalami junta; former Abia State Governor, Orji Kalu; and former military Governors of Rivers State, Anthony Ukpo and Samuel Ewang.
Also among the dead are Abdulkadir Ahmed, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor; and renowned economist, Pius Okigbo, who headed the probe panel on the Gulf Crude Oil Excess sales set up by the CBN in 1994.
According to the report of the investigators, the 80 persons received part of the N27 billion bribe facilitated by foreign contractors for Halliburton to get the contract to build the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) plant, Africa’s first, in Bonny, Rivers State.
The scandal dates back to 1994 when some foreign companies put up bids for the construction of the plant that was to cost $6 billion.
To win the contract, a joint venture company, named TSKJ, was set up – comprising equal holdings between some companies, Technip (French), Sanmprogetti (Italian), KBR (U.S.), and part of the Halliburton group and Japanese engineering and construction company, JGC.
The investigators said the consortium bribed political leaders and top government functionaries through Tri-Star Investment Limited and Marubeni Inc.
They also recruited British lawyer, Jeffery Tesler, to co-ordinate the affairs of Tri-Star, as well as Wojciech Chodan, an American, to co-ordinate the affairs of Marubeni.
TSKJ mandated Tri-Star to solely take charge of bribing Nigerian officials at senior level, Marubeni was restricted to bribing junior level officials.
Tesler disclosed in a court deposition that TSKJ mandated both companies to bribe the officials.
As part of the investigation, the Swiss Justice Department followed the steps of the Police Judiciare of France, which in 2003, started an investigation that revealed fraudulent Halliburton payments to Tesler.
In the U.S., KBR and Halliburton have admitted to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by engaging in a decade-long bribing scheme to secure contracts in Nigeria.
Both agreed to pay a combined fine of $579 million to settle criminal and civil charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice.
However, in Nigeria, the country where the recipients of the bribe were domiciled, the government has turned the other way. This was said to have angered the US government.
A presidency source said President Goodluck Jonathan is mulling over the possible prosecution of the accused persons but he is being bogged by political considerations as some of the accused persons were expected to play prominent roles in his 2015 presidential bid.