Many Nigerians are already aware of the dent brought upon Nigeria’s image by the $180 million LNG bribe. And to make matters worse, none of the “big men” named in the scam has seen the inside of a courtroom dock.
The issue was blown wide open by a French court when it launched an inquiry into allegations that one of the firms, KRB, paid $180 million to Nigerian government officials to win contracts for the construction of the first two trains of the Nigeria Liquefied Gas (NLG) Project in the 1990s. This was followed by another probe of the TSKJ consortium by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Halliburton, the big corporation enmeshed in the dirty deal had insisted on its innocence at first, maintaining that the alleged bribing of Nigerian officials occurred before its acquisition of KBR.
On the recommendations of the Offodile Committee, the Nigerian government banned the company from carrying out any work in Nigeria because of its corrupting influence which has become evident with the on-going trial in France.
But there is a local dimension to the whole ugly drama.
While testifying before the House Committee, former Chairman of the NLG denied collecting any dirty money from TSKJ Consortium – believed to have facilitated the bribes to Nigerian officials. Mr. Jeffrey Tessler had at various times advanced Dan Teeter, the former Petroleum minister and Altai Mohammed Dikko Yusuf, a one time Chairman of the LNG, some money to get the $2.9 billion contract during late General Sani Abaca’s regime.
The bribery saga, according to Street Journal’s investigations, began in the early nineties when TSKJ, the Portugal-registered company owned jointly by Halliburton’s Kellogg Brown & Root (KRB), Techno SA of France, Enid’s Snampro-getti Netherlands and only recently JGC Corp. of Japan won the contract to build the $1.7 billion train six of the LNG plant.
On face value, their bid was fair and square. But facts later indicated that they might have secured the contracts after greasing the palms of several businessmen, politicians and public officials.
Although the names of several people have come up in the course of the investigation, the principal characters appear to be Gilbert Chagouri, the Lebanese businessman friend of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha; former oil Minister, Chief Dan Etete and Abacha himself, as well as Jeffrey Tessler, the British “Consultant” who has only been to Nigeria once in his lifetime yet has been making hundreds of millions in dollars from Nigerian oil since 1977.
It was Tessler who allegedly shared out $180 million dollars to Nigerian politicians, businessmen and public servants.
United States’ former Vice-President, Mr. Dick Cheney who is the Chairman of Halliburton group of companies has also been named in the scam while there have also been some links traceable to former President Obasanjo in the scam.
Curiously, Halliburton officials had complained that the whole bribery investigation in France was targeted at Cheney, who was Chairman and Chief Executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000, the period the whole scandal played out.
Incidentally, of all the current investigations into Halliburton and its subsidiaries, the Nigerian case is the only one that covers the period Cheney was running the company and that is why in the US opposition, politicians believes he has questions to answer on the issue.
Perhaps to save Cheney any embarrassment over the scandal, Halliburton had to sack and disown former KRB President, Albert Jack Stanley, who incidentally, was appointed by Cheney into the position in 1998 and another official, William Chaudan because they were said to have facilitated the slush funds for Nigerian officials.
The Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company (NLNG) is jointly owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Shell, Total-Fina-Elf and Agip (D12).
In 1994, according to the court document, NLNG invited interested parties to tender for the construction of two natural gas liquefaction plants (‘trains’) on Bonny Island. Four engineering companies, Technip, Snam Progetti, Kelloggs Brown and Root, and JGC (Japan), formed a joint venture called TSKJ, registered in Madeira, to tender for the work. The consortium was led by Kellogg’s Brown and Root. The subsequent bids, concluded in l990 and 2002 were negotiated amicably without public tender with the same partners.
According to Mr. Desseilligny, a senior Technip executive, Shell was the operator.
The bids sought were three in number: the first for trains 1 and 2, the second for train 3 and the last, signed in 2002, for train 4.
They were concluded between Nigerian LNG on the one side and on the other, three companies registered in Madeira – TSKJ Servicos, TSKJII Constructoes and LNG Servicos.
The first contract, worth a total of $2.2 billion, was concluded in 1995 (with effect from December 1, 1995). The second was concluded on March 6, 1999, for a total of $1.4 billion. The third was concluded on March 22, 2002, for a total of $1.7 billion.
The bribe distributor, Mr. Tessler was also described as the personal legal adviser of many people including businessmen, military officers and politicians in Nigeria while operating as a consultant to many firms operating within Nigeria.
The first contract was signed on 20 March 1995 by Mr. Tessler (Tristar) and Richard Northmore on a basic sum of $660 million, adjustable according to the size of the main contract.
This contract is not named in the first indictment. The second contract was signed on 18 March 1999 between the same two companies, represented by Mr. Kaye (Tristar) and Robert Parker, on a basic figure of $32.5 million. A specific clause stipulates, on pain of cancellation of the contract, that no payment can be made to any third party including government employees, officials, political parties or political campaigns.
This clause was repeated in the contracts that followed. The consultant guaranteed that the principle had been followed with the 1995 contract. And the money was collected as follows:
- $60 million for the first contract (20 March 1995)
- $37.5 million for the second contract (18 March 1999)
- $51 million for the third (24 December 2001)
- $23 million for the fourth (28 June 2002).
French investigators implicated many top Nigerian officials – currently working with NNPC and its subsidiaries – who were at different occasion beneficiary of sums of money ranging between $50,000 to millions of dollars depending on status and relevance to the LNG project.
According to French police investigations, Mr. Tessler provided a lot of information about the dirty deals in the Nigerian oil and gas sector of which he is an authority, notwithstanding the fact that he has only been in the country once and even that was more than two decades ago.
Curiously, Tessler had his hands in other lucrative oil deals.
He was the same man who fronted for Etete to buy the juicy Block 256 for a mere $8 million from Sherwood Petroleum in January 1999, during the General Abubakar Abdulsalami era.
When President Obasanjo took over three months later and discovered that there were lots of fraudulent activities during the Nigerian military regime, he seized the oil block and sold it to Ocean Energy for $240 million, a decision that did not go down well with former Petroleum Minister Dan Etete.
Tessler confirmed to the court that he ensured that accounts opened in the name of Dan Etete were credited with the following payments from the TRISTAR UBP account: $482,795 between July 1996 and February 1997 (Credit Suisse account no. 2300095 in the name of Omoni Amafegha (D319); $500,000 on 10 February 1998 (Banque HOFFMAN account no. 12423 in the name of Omoni Amafegha, under the code name PAPA (D320)
He also disclosed to the court then that a meeting was facilitated between him and late Gen. Sani Abacha by M.D Yusuf to whom he made two payments of $ 75,000 in 1998.
Late last year, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed a 16-count charge against Dick Cheney and three other former Halliburton executives.
In frantic efforts to dump the report that indicted influential political figures in Nigeria, some of the principal actors in the bribery scandal were made to serve as prosecution witnesses.
Street Journal’s investigations revealed that that was the main reason why the report of the Okiro Presidential Panel set up to look into the allegations of bribery of top Nigeria officials by Halliburton, and another report sent by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to President Jonathan has not received any attention. The whereabouts of both reports have remained unknown.
Shortly after the inauguration of the Advisory Committee, the chairman, Gen. T.Y Danjuma told the then acting President Jonathan not to ignore the Okiro report. The Street Journal, however, gathered that some months after, Danjuma was “properly briefed” on the implications of the report on the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Presidential ambition of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
True to Street Journal’s report years ago that the real culprits in the scandal might end up not being prosecuted, Bodunde Adeyanju, a personal assistant to former President Obasanjo was dragged before a Federal High Court Abuja for his alleged involvement in the Halliburton bribery scandal. He was alleged to have received about $ 5 million.
Street Journal’s investigation has revealed that the report seems to have become too big for the President to handle, especially with the “untouchable people” involved. Some of the indicted are Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Abubakar Atiku, Ex NNPC bosses Gaius Obaseki, and Funsho Kupolokun, Former Petroleum minister, Don Etiebet and, Gen Abdulsalam Abubakar,
Shortly after the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), linked 80 names, including those of prominent Nigerians to the scandal, the Yar”Adua administration set up a Presidential panel to investigate the matter. It was headed by former police Chief Mike Okiro. The panel included EFCC boss, Farida Waziri, and officials from the offices of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), and Nigeria Intelligence agency (NIA).
The report established that Obasanjo, Kupolokun, Obaseki and Atiku got $74 Million (N1.77 Billion) from Halliburton between 2001 and 2003.
The report and investigations by the EFCC and the police also concluded that Adeyanju received $5 million in three trenches from agents of Albert Stanley, CEO of KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. The Street Journal sources hinted that even though he consistently told investigators he got the cash on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it was clear he acted on behalf of his boss.
According to our sources, Adeyanju had been made to understand the implication of admitting he acted on behalf of Obasanjo. It was also learnt that being the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP, and one of the pillars for Jonathan’s 2011 presidential project, it was expedient to allow Adeyanju take the role of the scapegoat.
It was learnt that two other frontmen who are taking the fall for the big names are former MD of defunct Nigeria Airways, Air Marshall A.D Bello (Rtd), and former Permanent Secretary, Ibrahim Aliyu. While the former’s account was used to disburse $150 Million, the foreign account of Aliyu was used to move $11 Million of the Halliburton bribes.
Street Journal’s investigations have revealed a political calculation behind the matter, that is, some of the indicted people would be used as prosecution witnesses, the middlemen would be prosecuted and later be given them soft landing while the report of the panels would remain permanently under the carpet. Sources also disclosed to Street Journal that at worst, Adeyanju would face a maximum of 2 years or a N250, 000 fine or both.
A source also told Street Journal that the EFCC is just trying to save face by filing charges against Chenney. The source opined that “they did that just to divert attention so that people won’t say the government is foot-dragging”. The charges against the former American Vice President were dropped by the Nigerian Government after an offer made by Halliburton to pay fines totalling up to $250 million.