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Halliburton bribery scandal: Who are the bribe takers?

By Emmanuel Ajibulu

By Emmanuel Ajibulu
The Halliburton bribery tale has been a worrisome issue since it broke

in 2003, following an investigation of KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary,

over payments to a range of high profile Nigerian officials in the

executive, NNPC and the NLNG. The sum of $180 million was involved over

a contract estimated to worth about $6 billion. Kellog, Brown and Root

(KBR), the Halliburton subsidiary that got the job, was part of a

four-company joint venture on the project. The company has already

pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a fine of $520 million.

In the information available in the public domain, court documents in

the USA, KBR admitted that at the crucial junctures before the award of

the contracts, KBR's former CEO, Albert Jack Stanley and others met

with three successive former holders of a top-level office in the

executive branch of the Nigerian government to ask the office holders

to designate a representative with whom the joint-venture should

negotiate bribes to Nigerian officials. Two representatives were

accordingly hired - a consulting company, Tri-Star, based in Gribraltar

and a trading company based in Tokyo. Tri-Star was paid $132 million,

while the Tokyo Company got $50 million. All the money was to be passed

to Nigerian officials, according to documents on the website of the US

Justice Department.
The EFCC, which once probed the
$180m bribe scandal, interrogated
Edmund Daokuru, former minister of state and Funso Kupolokun, the

managing director of the NNPC. The scandal broke out after a French

court investigated KBR on an allegation that it paid $180m to FG

officials to win contracts for the construction of the NLNG plant (an

awesome project aimed at building first Africa's liquefied natural gas

plant in Bony, Rivers State, Nigeria). The House of Representatives

also carried out a separate investigation. But Halliburton officials

failed to cooperate in unveiling the Nigerian officials who shared the

$180 million bribe money, on the excuse that investigation on the same

match were afoot in the US and Europe. The bribe paid to Nigerian

officials was done at different times, starting from the General Sani

Abacha years, in 1995.
In 1995, unconfirmed report revealed that Halliburton's subsidiary,

TSKJ, hired Spanish-based Tri-Star Company, owned by indicted London

lawyer, Jeffrey Tessler, to pay $60 million in bribes to Nigerians. In

1999, $37.5 million was paid. It was not clear if the money was paid

before Abdulsalami handed over to General Obasanjo in May, 1999. But

under Obasanjo, Halliburton twice paid kickbacks– in 2001 and 2002. In

2001, $51 million was paid and in 2002, $37.5 million was paid. Two

Nigerians whose names had featured in the bribe saga were Alhaji M.D.

Yusuf and former oil minister, Dan Etete, during Abacha's

time. Yusuf
admitted collecting money from Tessler, but said it was a loan. Etete,

on his part, said the NLNG contract was awarded without his input. The

contract was valued at more than $6 billion and awarded between 1995

and 2004.
Meanwhile Former President Olusegun Obasanjo an elder statesman was

invited to BBC famous programme Hardtalk (sometime in march 2009),

anchored by Steven Suckur. In the middle of the interview Steven said

Obasanjo's name was mentioned by Tesler to have been involved in the

drama but Obasanjo distanced himself from any wrong doing. Meanwhile,

the American investigators made it known that three former Nigerian

leaders were indicted in this shoddy deal, and names like Chief

Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdusalami Abubakar and late General Sani Abacha are

not spared. Also enmeshed in the vast and formalized bribery scheme is

a long line of ministers, bureaucrats, top politicians, state and local

officials. The question now is who actually collected this bribe?

Nigerians are desperate to know. Or could it be a hoax?

However, in April 2009 some sign of relief came when the Federal

Government through the Attorney-General/Minister of Justice, Chief Mike

Aondoaka disclosed that $150 million out of the $180 million

Halliburton bribe is trapped in Zurich, Switzerland. The minister must

indeed be commended for this bold step.
His words: “We have discovered that $150million of the bribe money is

in Z
urich. That is the first shocking discovery. The entire money is

$180 million. $150 million is already in Zurich trapped.”

The Attorney-General while addressing press conference said government

was trying to find out in whose account the money was lodged. When

asked how he got to know that the money was in Zurich, he replied, “Am

I not the chief law officer of this country? I went to US and we had

useful information. For me even if you are talking to me, sharing ideas

with me I must have all the information authenticated by the government

and the US government has been very friendly to us.”

On how the government would treat those indicted, he said, “when crime

is committed we prosecute and we would not deny prosecution to

anybody.” Aondoaka said he was not happy with the way the Halliburton

story was being reported as if the government was hiding the names of

those involved.
According to him, “the judgment is under seal and you (press) are

talking as if we sealed the names in the court so you can't get the

names. “All these names you get, let me make it clear to you,

government does not prosecute out of the newspaper stories.

“If somebody said I voted $40 million for you and if the money does not

reach you, can I come and prosecute you because in his book he wrote

$40 million?
“There must be evidence that must be tendered to=2

0show that that money
was handed over to you. Is it through wire transfer? Is it through

somebody? So these are some of the things we want to establish. The

main fact that somebody wrote in his book that I have voted $40 million

that he wants to bribe you does not mean that you have taken bribe...

For instance, we have discovered that $150 million of the bribe money

is in Zurich. That is the first shocking discovery.”

Consequently, Nigerians are happy with the high powered committee set

up specifically to thoroughly investigate this matter, and Nigerians

have strong conviction that this committee which involves the EFCC boss

Hajia Farida Waziri, the Inspector General of Police Mr. Mike Okiro,

Attorney-General Chief Mike Aondoaka, others are representatives of the

National Security Adviser (NSA), the Director General of the National

Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Director General, States Security

Services (SSS). President Umaru Yar'Adua has given assurance that his

administration will not shield any Nigerian, no matter his/her status.

The President also called for patience from Nigerians on the issue,

saying his administration is waiting for the “authentic” facts, as

currently sealed by a US Court, so those involved in the scandal would

not turn around to accuse the government of political persecution.

Meanwhile all stakeholders concerned in this investigative task should

note that there is something crucial her
e that should not be
undermined, and that is the image of Nigeria. Nigerians have read

different reports, many publication, online reports from different

websites nationally and internationally therefore the committee should

ambidextrously expedite its efforts to ensure that no stone is left

unturned; Nigerians have considered this committee as the last symbol

of hope on this alleged corrupt act. The success of this task can

conveniently be considered as a key milestone which can be instrumental

to the redemption of Nigeria's battered image over this over publicised

bribery scandal, and this can score Nigeria the point of being good

people great nation.
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