by Yusuf Alli,
Despite the payment of fines by some companies, fresh facts emerged yesterday that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may soon bring prominent Nigerians implicated in the $180m Halliburton bribe to justice.
About four former Heads of State and 89 prominent Nigerians were allegedly linked with the scandal.
In all, 76 prominent Nigerians are listed in the five notebooks submitted by the Halliburton Group to the EFCC.
There were indications yesterday that the anti-graft agency may quiz some of those listed.
A former Minister of Petroleum Resources has admitted collecting inducement from the bribery agent, Jeffrey Tesler/TSKJ.
It was learnt that about $2.5million was paid into the ex-minister’s account in Switzerland in 1998.
A top source in EFCC said: “We are looking into all aspects of the Halliburton scandal, including the bribe takers. This latest probe of the scandal is comprehensive.”
According to a document obtained by our correspondent, those implicated in the Halliburton Notebooks are: Four ex-Heads of State; two former Chiefs of General Staff, two ex-First Ladies; ex-CBN Governor; three former Military Governors/ Administrators; a former Deputy Governor of CBN, 11 former ministers(including two ex-Ministers of Petroleum Resources); two retired permanent secretaries and three ex-NNPC GMDs.
Others are ex-secretaries to the Government of the Federation; a former civilian governor in the South-East; a former Ambassador to Italy, an ex-envoy to Brazil, three ex-NNPC secretaries, a former Chief Security Officer to a former Head of State; former MD, NLNG/Shell; former Chief of Army Staff; a former Field Commandant of ECOMOG in Liberia; ex-MD of NAFCON; and more than 13 former NNPC top shots.
However, some of the ex-Heads of State were claiming that they received gifts and not bribes, sources said.
The report said in part: Following the submission made by Halliburton Group of Companies a 500-page document in five notebooks on 2nd September, 2004 which was allegedly found in the archives of the London Office of KBR by Halliburton’s Attorneys investigating this matter, a thorough examination of the said notebooks was done.
“Although the information contained in these Notebooks are not specific in terms of amount allegedly collected by named Nigerian officials from officials of TSKJ as an inducement for favours in the award of contract, it shed light on this scam and confirmed the existence of some sort of inducements shared by both officials of TSKJ and Nigerian Government who were in position to influence the award of the contract.
“A former Minister was a key player in this scam and had already admitted to collecting money as inducement from Jeffrey Tesler/TSKJ to the investigating magistrate in Paris.
“That the agreement between Tri-Star Investment Ltd/Jeffrey Tesler/TSKJ for the executions of the alleged bribery scandal making way for TSKJ as favoured contractor for the award of the building and expansion of NLNG was signed and sealed on 22nd March 1995.
“The mandate of Tri-Star Investments was among others to secure the award of the building and expansion project on negotiated basis as opposed to participating in a competitive bidding process. It was also to assist in maintaining of favourable relationships with the client and any other government authorities;
“Based on the extensive analysis of the Five Notebooks submitted by the Halliburton Group and extensive investigations carried out so far, the following facts are clearly established:-
(a.) That Jeffrey Tesler was and is actually involved with several Nigerian Generals and with people in authority in the past and present;
(b.) That Jeffrey Tesler’s Tri-Star Investment Ltd entered into Consulting and Commercial Promotion Services for the Nigeria LNG Project.
(c.) That Jeffrey Tesler and others working in pursuance of the above mentioned agreements did meet several Nigerian Government officials and did pay gratifications/inducements/retro commissions/bribes to them in the process. These bribes were given to secure the NLNG contract and maintaining favourable relationships with client and any other governmental authorities;
(d.) That analysis of the Notebooks submitted by Halliburton Group of Companies mentioned several prominent Nigerians.”
The $180million bribery scandal involved the former Halliburton’s subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) in respect of the nation’s Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Bonny.
Albert J. Stanley admitted before a Houston Court in the US on September 4, 2008 that he orchestrated more than $180million in bribe to senior government officials.
Stanley alleged that the bribe was channeled through a UK based lawyer, Mr. Jeffery Tesler, in four installments of $60million; $32.5million; $51million and $23million.
The bribe was allegedly facilitated between 1995 and 2005 in London.
The countries where the bribe money was allegedly stashed by some top government officials and their accomplices are France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Portugal and Seychelles.
Tesler, 63, was in February, 2012 sentenced to 21 months in Prison in the US after pleading guilty to the offer of princely bribe sums to some Nigerian Government officials with $132 million dollars between 1994 and 2004.
He also forfeited $149 million to US authorities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
About five companies indicted for the Halliburton scam have paid about $200million fines.
The breakdown of the $200m remittances by the five companies was as follows: Julius Berger ($35m); Siemens (Euros 30m); Snamprogetti ($30m); Halliburton Energy Services ($32,500,000); and Japan Gasoline Corporation ($26, 500,000).
The whereabouts of about $32.5million of the fines has led to the interrogation of some senior lawyers.
Those who had been interrogated by the EFCC are a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, J.B Daudu (SAN), Mr. E.C Ukala (SAN) Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), D.D. Dodo (SAN) and a top shot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Roland Ewubare.
Also, an Abuja High Court on March 27, 2013 struck out the case against six Nigerian suspects arraigned over the Halliburton scandal.
Those set free were a former Permanent Secretary, Ibrahim Aliyu, Mohammed Gidado Bakari and four companies.
The four companies are Urban Shelter Ltd, Intercellular Nigeria Ltd, Sherwood Petroleum Ltd and Tri-Star Investment Ltd.
The six accused persons had stood trial for allegedly serving as conduits and receiving bribes in hard currency to facilitate natural gas contracts between 1994 and 2005.
The trial judge, Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar, said the prosecution had failed to diligently prosecute the case.
On his part, Mr. Adeyanju Bodunde (a former Personal Assistant to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo) was still battling in the court to prove his innocence over alleged $5million payments made to him between 2002 and 2003.
A former EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu , who spoke in Germany on the Halliburton scandal in February, expressed regrets that the Halliburton scandal was frustrated in the country.
He said “a gang of foreigners stole from Nigeria” from a $6 billion natural gas contract won by a consortium of four international companies.
Ribadu added: “I first got hint of the case in France. I got back home and tried to investigate the case but it was very difficult or probably impossible because the companies were not there in Nigeria, they didn’t have account there, the people were not there. They had left.
“I rushed back to Paris. I was in Paris many times. I put in a request letter but after a year of trying to get French authorities to help us, the investigation magistrate told me that they could not get anyone to translate my letter from English to French. I knew it was a hopeless case.”
He said after failing to get France, Italy and Japan to help, he opted to go to the United States even though Dick Cheney, the then US vice president, was on the board of Halliburton.
“The Department of Justice in the United States took up the case. They investigated and prosecuted the case. They placed a fine of over $1.5 billion on the company, the biggest in the world for corporate corruption.”
He said some of the cases which the EFCC under his watch referred to US Department of Justice, including those of Siemens and Julius Berger, the US made over $3 billion in fines.
“But the sad aspect is this, in my own country, where the criminal activity took place, not a single person was made to face justice, especially after I was asked to leave my position. Sadly Nigeria did not make a dollar out of it,” he added