Nigerian heads of state: Sani Abacha( 1993-1998), Abdulsalami Abubakar,(1998-1999), Olusegun Obasanjo(1976-1979, 1999-2007). Photo: NEXT
The Halliburton bribe takers
By Dapo Olorunyomi and Mojeed Musiliku
March 30, 2009 10:04AMT
Our so-called leaders are nothing but common bribe takers, according to US investigators who have got to the bottom of the Halliburton scandal.
Also enmeshed in the vast and formalized bribery scheme is a long line of ministers, bureaucrats, top politicians,state and local officials and former oil minister Dan Etete, according to American investigators.
This cast of characters, charged with running the affairs of 150 million people in the heart of Africa,received stacks of US dollar bills in briefcases and sometimes in bullion vans.
In other cases they received their payoffs via electronic bank transfers involving such financial institutions as Citibank.
In all, these eminent Nigerians accepted at least N27 billion in bribes from the oil services companies in exchange for billions of dollars in contracts to build our liquefied natural gas plant, US investigators say.
American authorities are now pursuing their own citizens and corporations, notably the oil services company Halliburton, in connection with the scandal.
Halliburton has agreed to pay $579 million in fines and many of its agents face long jail terms.
How it all started
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, amplified corruption in Nigeria to unprecedented levels.
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.
Thus while Tristar was incorporated in Gibraltar and had a budget of $130 million; Marubeni, incorporated in Japan, had a budget of $50 million.
Our investigations in the United States, France, the UK and in Nigeria spanned a three week period and were based on court indictments, depositions and interviews.
Bribery in a customary manner
This meeting held on November 02 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 Mr. 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 November 2 meeting , to confirm if Mr. 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.
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.
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.
In 2004, when 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.
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 Mr.Abacha to recommend a trusted front man to collect his bribe.
Shortly after he died on June 8, 1998, Mr.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 February 28 1999, asking Mr. Abubakar, to recommend a trusted front man to collect his bribe.
Anxiety about the election
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 March 05 1999, to come up with a strategy to achieve this objective.
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.
For four days last week, NEXT sought unsuccessfully, through his media consultant, to reach the former Head of State, sending him details of the court indictments but he declined to comment.
One month later, on December 20 in London, Mr. Obaseki met Mr. Chodan and Mr.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. Mr. Obaseki declined to respond to these charges when NEXT spoke to him on the phone.
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.
Apparently the Peoples Democratic Party gods 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.
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and the late Shehu Musa Yar Adua are alleged to have substantial interests in Intels Energy Limited.
NEXT made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to speak to Intels officials on the phone.
A letter delivered to their Ikoyi, Lagos office asking for their response to this allegation is still unanswered .
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
The remaining $4 million was, according to the court filings, delivered in naira in a bul-lion van.
Audu Ogbe who was the PDP chairman at the time denied any knowledge of this and loudly called for an investigation.
A spokesman for Vincent Ogbulafor, the current chairman, said in Abuja last week that Ogboluafor also discounted this claim.
Phenomenal greed and sleaze
The ruling class was identified and 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.
Yet, Templars maintains a relationship with both TSKJ and Halliburton on its website.
An office spokesperson declined to comment on when Templars severed its relationships with TSKJ and Halliburton.
But he was emphatic that the principal partner, Oghogho Akpata, who is the office lead on the TSKJ/KBR/Halliburton brief, would not be available for comments.
KBR or its principal officers are facing investigation and prosecution in at least five countries today.
He is to be extradited to the USA to face further questioning by the Department of Justice.
Also arrested with Mr.Tesler was Mr.Chodan, 71, who as an agent for Halliburton, wrote detailed diaries, describing meetings with the bribe consortium and representatives of the international oil companies.
Since 2004, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has been investigating the conduct of Halliburton/KBR.
The investigation is ongoing, according to sources in Abuja.
Recently, the Swiss Justice department followed the steps of the Police Judiciare of France, which in 2003, started an investigation which revealed fraudulent Halliburton payments to Jeffery Tesler.
In their home country, the United States, KBR and Halliburton admitted last month to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, by engaging in a decade-long bribing scheme to secure contracts in Nigeria.
The companies also agreed to pay a combined fine of $579 million to settle criminal and civil charges brought by both the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) for violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
The indictment of Mr.Tesler and Mr.Chodan, in all likelihood, will also open a floodgate of other suits.
This month the president gave full backing to the Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa, to again investigate Halliburton for tarnishing the image of the country by bribing its officials.
Mr. Aaondoaka has assembled a team of local lawyers and briefed American-based financial crimes experts, to institute a suit against KBR and Halliburton for soiling the name of the country through the bribery schemes.
Also last Tuesday, the Nigerian Senate called on the Federal Government to identify the Nigerians involved and proceed to prosecute them.
We just read about the thing in the newspapers. Unless we are able to come across some documentation to look at that kind of issue, there is nothing we can do.
In the 2003-2007 House of Representatives, when Chudi Offodile, as chairman of the House committee on pubic petitions, investigated the Halliburton scandal, he said he repeatedly ran into a brick wall.
The Offodile committee, however, recommended that all companies in the TSKJ consortium, as well as Halliburton be excluded from future contracts in the country.
In his response to the current phase of the scandal, Mr.Offodile, in a pained response, lamented how the NNPC and the Federal Government subverted all the best intensions of the legislature.
He recounted a meeting in June 2005 when he accompanied then House Speaker Aminu Bello and Deputy Speaker Austin Opara, to brief President Obasanjo on the true situation of the Halliburton/KBR.
It appears that Mr. Aoandoaka, who reportedly travelled to London and Washington last week also has an eye on the civil forfeiture processes for some of the monies and investments derived from the bribes.