Detectives are making progress in their resolve to find the $200m (N66billion) penalty fines paid by five companies involved in the $180million Halliburton bribery scandal, The Nation learnt yesterday.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has asked the lawyers who handled the settlement agreement to account for the fines and about $12million (N3.960billion) collected as “legal fees”.
One of the lawyers, Mr. Damian Dodo (SAN), in a letter to EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu, admitted that the legal team got $3.5million of the $4.5million legal fees.
He said the balance of $1,000,000 was remitted to the Federal Ministry of Justice as “reimbursement cost to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The EFCC is closing in on more suspects implicated in the Settlement Agreement on the Halliburton scandal.
A source said: “This commission is making progress despite the braggadocio in the media by some people being investigated. The truth is that we have conflicting records which we need to reconcile.
“If companies paid penalty fines as part of plea bargaining, Nigerians deserve to know where the money is. Let them produce evidence of remittance of the fines.
“We are going to get to the roots of this scandal, including the legal fees of about $12million. We may also interact with all those involved in the agreement. We want to locate the whereabouts of the fines duly paid.”
“We are closing in on more suspects who have to come and tell us all they know about the whereabouts of the $200million purportedly remitted to the government.
“Now, we have got a new dimension to the case involving payment or remittance of $1,000,000 to the Federal Ministry of Justice. We need all records and we may invite some key officials of the ministry to testify.”
The source added: “In fact, the so-called $200million fines appeared to be a far cry from what the nation ought to have got.
“About $1.5billion was paid by Halliburton to the US Government. Yet, the country, which was ripped off, got pittance.
“Despite the fines, the facilitator of the bribery, a UK lawyer, Mr. Jeffery Tesler, has just completed a jail term. In Nigeria, all the culprits are walking freely as if it was a normal trend. We are looking at all these dimensions to the case. We want justice for Nigeria.”
But one of the lawyers involved in the Settlement Agreement, Mr. Damian Dodo (SAN), in a February 15 letter to the EFCC chairman, admitted that the legal team got $3.5million professional fees out of the $4.5million paid to the group through his firm, D.D. Dodo and Co.
He said $1million was “deducted” from $4.5million as “reimbursement cost” to the Federal Government.
The $1million was paid to the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The letter said: “Further to my brief dated 11th February, 2016, I hereby wish to bring to your attention that the sum of $1,000,000 (N150million at the time) was approved by the Hon. Attorney -General as reimbursement of cost to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The said sum of $1,000,000 was deducted from the sum of $4.5million received by D.D. Dodo and Co. on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria legal team, leaving the team with $3.5million.
“On the instruction of the Team Leader, Mr. J.B. Daudu(SAN), I forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Justice a cheque in the sum of N150milion(equivalent of $1,000,000) at the prevailing exchange rate at the time)in March 2011.
“Copy of the acknowledgement from the Federal Ministry of Justice dated 16th March 2011 is attached for ease of reference.
“I am also aware that some other sum was approved to the HAGF as Federal Government of Nigeria cost from the payments received by Obla and co and that the sum was accordingly remitted to the Federal Ministry of Justice. Chief Godwin Obla will provide you further details in this regard.
“I hope this helps in the process of your investigation.”
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.
Bodunde Adeyanju, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s aide, was arraigned in 2010 alongside George Mark, Jeffrey Tesler (now at large), Hans George Christ, Heinrich J. Stockhausen; Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and Bilfinger Berger GMBH.
But Mark, Tesler, Christ, Stockhausen; Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and Bilfinger Berger GMBH were alleged to have sometime between 2002 and 2003 conspired to make several cash payments in the sum of $1million (five times) totalling $5million to Bodunde.
They were alleged to have committed an offence contrary to Section 16 of the Money Laundering Act 1995(as saved by Section 23(2) of the Money Laundering Act 2004) and punishable under Section 15(2) and (3) of the Money Laundering Act 1995(as saved by Section 23(2) of the Money Laundering Act, 2004).
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 channelled through Tesler in four instalments 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, Britain, Switzerland, Portugal and Seychelles.
Tesler, 63, was in February, 2012 sentenced to 21 months in prison in the United States after pleading guilty in March, last year to bribing Nigerian Government officials with $132 million between 1994 and 2004.
He also forfeited $149 million to US authorities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Tesler is believed to have played a fast one on Nigerian officials who were to benefit from the $180m by diverting $133, 073,750million to his account in Switzerland.
He only shared about $22, 417, 000 and DRM 500,000 to some top government officials.
Upon discovery of the $133, 073,750m in Tesler’s account, the Swiss government froze the account and during the trial of the accused person, the fund was transferred to the US.
A former EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, recently in Germany expressed regrets that the Halliburton scandal was frustrated in Nigeria.
He said “a gang of foreigners stole from Nigeria” from a $6 billion natural gas contract won by a consortium of four international companies.
He said on some of the cases which the EFCC under his watch referred to the 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,” Ribadu added. The Nation