Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday grilled a senior Advocate, Mr. Godwin Obla, on his role and four others in negotiating plea bargain on the $180million bribery with five companies.
The other affected lawyers are a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), J. B. Daudu (SAN); Damian D. Dodo(SAN); E.C. Ukala (SAN); and Roland Ewubare.
The anti- graft agency has been tracing the whereabouts of the $200m (N66billion) penalty fines paid by five companies involved in the scandal.
The breakdown of the remittances by the five companies is as follows: Julius Berger ($35m); Siemens (Euros 30m); Snamprogetti ($30m); Halliburton Energy Services ($32,500,000); and Japan Gasoline Corporation ($26, 500,000).
Also, the anti-graft agency may ask the lawyers who handled the settlement agreement to account for about $12million (N3.960billion) collected as “legal fees”.
Investigation revealed that Obla was invited for allegedly coordinating settlement terms and agreement with Siemens.
Obla, who got to the EFCC headquarters at about 10am, was released at about 3.37pm
A source said: “We have intensified the ongoing probe of the $180m Halliburton bribery scam with the interrogation of one of the lawyers involved in the negotiation settlement, Mr. Godwin Obla (SAN).
“You know he played a prominent role in the agreement with the five companies. He coordinated the negotiation with Siemens. We only asked him to explain the extent of his involvement as disclosed by his colleague, Mr. Damian Dodo(SAN).
“He has been allowed to go home but we may still invite him for further interrogation. We are closing in on more suspects.”
The source added that Obla “was granted bail on self-recognition.”
In a letter to the EFCC chairman, Mr. Damian Dodo( SAN) gave the breakdown of the payment of penalty fines including:
Julius Berger . “Following the Settlement Agreement meeting which held in the office of the National Security Adviser and with Julius Berger Plc represented by Alh. Abdullahi Ibrahim, SAN (former Attorney-General of the Federation) the total sum of $35,000,000 (Thirty Five Million US Dollars) was paid to the Federal Government Account. Copies of all relevant correspondence are attached for ease reference.
Siemens “The Settlement and Non-prosecution Agreement with Siemens was entered into on the 22nd of November, 2010 following which the sum of €30,000,000 (Thirty Million Euros) which was Six Billion, Fifty Two Million, Two Hundred and Seventy Thousand Naira (N6,052,270.00)
“The Professional fees and cost as contained in the Agreement payable to the Legal Team was paid into the account of the designated Counsel, Godwin Obla of Obla & Co for and on behalf of the Legal team as instructed by the Team Leader
Snamprogetti. “The Settlement Agreement with Snamprogetti was reached on the 10th of December, 2010. The Federal Government of Nigeria received the sum of $30,000,000 (Thirty Million US Dollars) as a consequence of the Settlement Agreement.
Halliburton Energy Services. “The Settlement Agreement entered into by the Federal Government with Halliburton Energy Services culminated in the Federal Government receiving the sum of $32, 500, 000 (Thirty Two Million, Five Hundred US Dollars) in the designated Federal Government Account as indicated in the first schedule of the Agreement
“As contained in the Agreement the fees payable to the Legal Team acting for the Federal Government was paid into the designated account of D.D Dodo & Co for and on behalf of the Legal Team as instructed by the Team Leader.
Japan Gasoline Corporation JGC. “The Settlement and Non-prosecution Agreement with Japan Gasoline Corporation was entered into on the 7th of January, 2011, following which JGC paid the Federal Government of Nigeria the sum of $26, 500,000 (Twenty Six Million, Five Hundred US Dollars) in the designated account
“The Legal Team received its professional fees and cost through its designated Counsel D.D Dodo, SAN of D.D Dodo & Co. for and pm behalf of the Legal Team as instructed by Team Leader
“All the professional fees and cost due to the Legal Team as received by Messrs J.B Daudu, Godwin Obla and D.D Dodo were disbursed to members of the Legal Team as directed by the Team Leader, J.B Daudu, SAN.
“It is worth pointing out that relevant Agencies of Government were involved in this Settlement Agreements including the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Economic Financial Crimes Commission. The Secretary of the EFCC (Emmanuel Akomaye) witnessed three (3) of the Agreements; namely: The SNAMPROGETTI Agreement, the HALLIBURTON Agreement and the JAPAN GASOLINE CORPORATION Agreement on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria
“It is perhaps important to invite the attention of the Commission to the confirmation by the Federal Government in various Agreements that payment of fees and cost to the Federal Government of Nigeria designated Counsel is lawful under Nigerian Law
“Typically for example, Clause 6 of the Agreement with Japan gasoline Corporation provide, that; “FGN confirms that the reimbursement of the FGN legal costs to the FGN designated counsel in the terms of the Agreements is lawful under Nigerian laws and regulations, and FGN designated counsel has confirmed to FGN that no proceeds of such reimbursement will be provided to any government officials”
“The Legal Team is available to give or provide you such further documents or clarification that may be required as we continue to be of service to the Federal Government of Nigeria since 2010.”
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 failed to diligently prosecute the case.
Bodunde Adeyanju, a former aide to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was arraigned in 2010 alongside George Mark, Jeffrey Tesler (now at large), Hans George Christ, Heinrich J. Stockhausen; Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Bilfinger Berger GMBH.
George Mark, Jeffrey Tesler(now at large), Hans George Christ, Heinrich J. Stockhausen; Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Bilfinger Berger GMBH were alleged to have sometimes between 2002 and 2003 conspired to make several cash payments in the sum of US$1million(five times) totaling in equivalent the sum of $5million to Adeyanju.
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 status of Adeyanju’s trial was unknown as at press time.
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 a UK based lawyer, Mr. Jeffery 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, 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 in March last year to bribing 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).
According to investigation, Tesler 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 looted fund was transferred to the US.
The Nation Newspaper