A report published today by Vanguard newspaper has uncovered a list of some of the foreign banks used to funnel close to $200 million in Halliburton bribes to Nigerian officials, including two former heads of states.
Under pressure from the United States, President Goodluck Jonathan recently directed that the files on the $180 million Halliburton bribery scam be reopened and the principal suspects re-arrested for prosecution.
Even though the Vanguard report failed to mention the former Nigerian heads of state implicated in the scandal, SaharaReporters has learnt that the principal targets are former military ruler Abdulsalami Abubakar and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr. Abubakar’s share of the illicit bribe funds, a total of $37.5 million, was wired to him through accounts in the American Express Bank Annex at the Towers World Financial Centre, New York, the Seaway National Bank, Chicago, and the Bank of New York.
Mr. Abubakar, who served as military ruler after the death of General Sani Abacha, operated several bank accounts that period included A/C No 187765 Chips VID 250517 (in the name of Maizubi Holdings, Minna), A/C No 0074952045, Routing Number 071001216, Foundation Inc., A/C No 9800263826 Swift/Sort Code GHBAGRAA001 and A/C No 0039342923-21 Routing Number 052001533.
The bribery deals were overseen by Jeffrey Tesler, a lawyer and dual citizen of the UK and Israel who served as a consultant to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton that sought to secure construction contracts worth $6 billion. Mr. Tesler was arrested in the UK in 2009. In 2011, he struck a plea bargain with US authorities that sent him to jail for 21 months. In addition, he forfeited $150 million to the US government.
Mr. Tesler reportedly used several fronts, including former Air-Vice Marshal Abdul Dominic Bello, to distribute bribe sums. A source indicated that Air-Vice Marshal Bello played a role in funneling funds to several Nigerian government officials. Bribes of over $68 million were wired to him using accounts at several banks. These included Lloyds Bank of London, A/C No 736827, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, London, American Express Bank, A/C No 2101653, HSBC, A/C No 31505024, and Lloyds Bank, A/C No 0737041. All transactions were done using a company called Tri-Star.
Vanguard disclosed that the various bribe sums were shared with the active knowledge and connivance of Sena Anthony, the company secretary of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG). Ms. Anthony’s role earned her an arrest, detention and prolonged interrogation during the first investigation. Subsequently, Nigerian investigators decided that she was key to unraveling the complete list of the bribery beneficiaries.
Vanguard learnt that Mr. Obasanjo used a variety of cronies to collect a total of about $39 million in bribe funds. Mr. Obasanjo reportedly used construction giant, Julius Berger, as a go-between. He purported that the huge sums of money were invested in the PDP, whereas only a minute fraction of the funds actually got to the party. Mr. Obasanjo's assistant, Bodunde Adeyanju, was briefly arrested and detained by Nigerian law enforcement.
The source also disclosed that Malabo Oil, which is owned by former Minister of Petroleum Dan Etete, received some $2 million from the bribery scam. In addition, Nigeria’s former spy chief, Umaru Shinkafi, also received $1.65 million of the Halliburton bribe. The cash was wired to him through the American Express Bank in London and in a joint account he operated with Ashiru Bisiji Aliyu.
Another big-time beneficiary was Abdulkadir Abacha. A brother of former dictator Sani Abacha, he received various sums amounting to about $13 million. The funds were sent through account names Headway Eng. Ltd. (A/C No 68579222), Strategic Ind. Ltd. (A/c No 76434366), and Action Investment Intern Ltd.
Ibrahim Aliyu, a former federal permanent secretary, used Union Bank Plc London office at Copt Avenue with account No 02101/01/010 312/ Swift Address UBNIGB31A.
M.G. Bakari, owner of Sherwood, reportedly acted for himself and a former head of state. He received huge sums through various accounts including Bank HSBC, Euston Road, London, A/C No 39067293 Sort Code 40-04-07, Swift Code MIDOGB; A/C No 024002112100; Monument Trust, Channels Island, Sherwood A/C No 024002112001 through which the sum of Euro 664, 020. 83 was wired to Sherwood.
President Jonathan’s order to re-open the Halliburton bribery scandal involving prominent Nigerians followed subtle criticism by the US. US officials recently told Mr. Jonathan that the Barack Obama administration would not authorize release of about $130 million in the Halliburton case until Nigeria demonstrated seriousness in prosecuting Nigerian officials who accepted bribes from Halliburton.
A source at the Presidency said Mr. Jonathan is not interested in prosecuting the former heads of state involved in the scam, despite soured relations between him and former President Obasanjo. Mr. Jonathan recently heaped praise on the prime suspect, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, describing him as the person who stabilized Nigeria's democracy.
Our source said Mr. Jonathan was upset over Mr. Obasanjo’s increasingly biting criticism of his administration, but doubted that the current president could risk taking on his predecessor and benefactor. “Don’t forget that Chief Obasanjo put him where he is,” said the source.
There are unanswered questions about the whereabouts of the $26.5 million returned by construction giant, Julius Berger, in a plea bargain arrangement with Mohammed Bello Adoke, Nigeria’s current Attorney General. A top aide to Mr. Jonathan asserted that Mr. Adoke misappropriated the funds with the help of some lawyers who were also involved in the case. The source disclosed that the funds were then used to set up an airline known as “Izzy Air,” a private charter airliner.