Latest findings on the controversial Halliburton Bribery Scandal has linked Jeffrey Tesler, a British lawyer who pleaded guilty for his role in the bribery scandal, and some high-ranking Nigerians not previously named in connection with the scandal.
According to Premium Times report, new files obtained from HSBC, a huge global bank based in London, by the French newspaper Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ, show ties between Tesler and some high-ranking Nigerians raising the possibility of renewed questions about Nigeria’s handling of the affair.
The Halliburton bribery scandal, which dates back to 1994 when the Nigerian government launched ambitious plans to build the Bonny Island Natural Liquefied Gas Project, had revealed a network of secretive banks and offshore tax havens used to funnel $182 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in exchange for $6 billion in engineering and construction work for an international consortium of companies that included a then Halliburton subsidiary.
An investigation conducted into the scandal in 2010 had seen former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was CEO of Halliburton before he was elected, indicted by Nigeria.
British Lawyer, Jeffry Tesler. Photo Credit: Premium Times
Though Cheney was later clear when Halliburton worked out a $35 million settlement.
Earlier investigations had revealed that Tesler began planning the bribe payments in 1994 and transferred small amounts of money through Switzerland in July 1996. But by 2003, his role had escalated.
According to an official Nigerian report, Tesler had in 2010 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, directed the drop-off of a travel bag stuffed with $1 million in $100 bills in the foyer of a luxury hotel where the per-night cost of a suite can exceed the nation’s average annual income of $3,000.
It was reported that it was one of at least 20 money transfers that Tesler made or directed.
The cash was reportedly destined for Nigeria’s ruling party via the state-owned oil and gas company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
However, the new files obtained by Le Monde and ICIJ show that nine people, including members of the Tesler family and Nigerian nationals, held a variety of roles with accounts at HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) between 1990 and 2003 — months before the completion of the gas plant.
Nine of the 12 accounts instructed HSBC to keep all correspondence under lock and key in a bank safe.
The leaked files also reveal that Tesler had financial ties to two former Nigerian officials: now-retired Major General Chris Garuba, chief of staff to former Nigerian president Abdulsalami Abubakar who himself allegedly received bribes as president; and Andrew Agom, a senior government official who was killed in an attack on a motorcade.
Garuba, a former governor of Northeastern Bauchi state, is now chairman of Obekpa Petroleum, a Nigerian oil company. Before his death, Agom was a board member of the Peoples Democratic Party, which controlled the government when this affair unfolded.
The HSBC files identify Chris Garuba and his wife Rita as HSBC clients; their names are listed along with Tesler’s in an account named Bridlington Enterprises Limited, for which Tesler acted as an attorney.
The files show that the account was opened the year before Tesler sent his first bribe payment to Switzerland, although the files do not show that Tesler transferred money into the Bridlington account, which held as much as $367,547 in 2006 or 2007.
Meanwhile, Tesler, now 66, has served his sentence and returned to England, where he told authorities he would “spend the last few years, which God may graciously grant me, to seek forgiveness.”
In Nigeria, anti-corruption campaigners continue to call on authorities to identify and prosecute Nigerian citizens involved in the scandal. While never publicly released, a 2010 Nigerian government document reportedly included three Nigerian presidents, a vice-president, a minister, intelligence chiefs and corporate titans in a list of bribery beneficiaries. The report did not name Garuba or Agom.
While speaking on the Halliburton bribery scandal in a recent interview with ICIJ, Dauda Garuba, Nigeria coordinator at the Natural Resource Governance Institute, said: “In terms of the personalities and the amount of money involved it is probably the biggest scandal in Nigeria’s history.
“Although we’ve seen the indictment and conviction of foreign companies and their top executives in Europe and America, Nigeria’s own government has not taken action in the very country in which the corruption took place.”
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