While the Nigerian Government shies away from prosecuting the beneficiaries of the ‘Halliburton bribe,’ the man who acted as the conduit for the bribe payment, Jeffery Tesler was Friday sentenced to 21 months in Prison in the United States of America
Mr. Tesler, 63, who pleaded guilty in March last year to bribing Nigerian Government officials with $132 million dollars between 1994 and 2004, also forfeited $149 million to US authorities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Despite forfeiting the largest amount by an individual under the FCPA, Mr. Tesler, a dual citizen of the UK and Israel, was also fined $25,000 by Keith Ellison, the Houston court judge who tried the case.
Apart from Mr. Tesler, Wojciech Chodan, a former London based manager of KBR, one of the bribe paying companies was also sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation. Mr. Chodan helped the American authorizes in their investigations. Another KBR boss Jack Stanley is also expected to be sentenced.
The Halliburton bribe
Between 1993 and 2004, top Nigerian officials including three successive heads of government (Sani Abacha, Abdusalam Abubakar, and Olusegun Obasanjo) received bribes from a consortium of companies largely through Mr. Tesler.
The consortium, called TSKJ paid $180 million dollars as bribe while getting Liquefied Natural Gas train contracts from the Nigerian Government. The contracts were worth $6 billion.
TSKJ was made up of four companies: KBR, then owned by Halliburton; Technip of France; Snamprogetti, a subsidiary of ENI of Italy; and Gasoline Corp, now JGC corporation, a Japanese company.
Apart from the three heads of state who allegedly benefitted from the bribe, other believed beneficiaries include former Petroleum minister, Dan Etete; former NNPC boss, Gaius Obaseki; former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Yusuf; as well as senior officials of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) between 1993 and 2004. Mr. Yusuf admitted collecting money from Mr. Tesler but described them as gift and loans “from a friend”.
A tale of confusion
Apart from Mr. Tesler, all the companies involved in the bribe payment to the Nigerian officials have all been fined and admitted guilt both in the United States and in their own countries. The four companies have paid a total $1.65 billion dollars to the United States under FCPA laws.
In Nigeria however, no public official has been convicted for accepting the bribes.
After much public outcry, the Federal Government set up a panel made up of the heads of all the intelligence agencies including the then Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Farida Waziri, and headed by Mike Okiro, the then Inspector General of Police. After the panel’s work came to naught, the EFCC carried out its own independent investigations, and is at present prosecuting mainly just one person for the scandal, a former aide to President Obasanjo, Bodunde Adeyanju.
Another company, Julius Berger which also acted as an intermediary during the bribe payment also made secret deals with the Federal Government.