The newly sworn in Muhammadu Buhari government has somewhat given confidence to the prosecutors in the widely publicized Halliburton bribery scandal that was prominent in the Nigerian media four years ago.
French newspaper, Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) have released more details on the $182 million Halliburton bribery scandal in Nigeria that indicted several top government official.
Those whose names have being mentioned that received bribes includes former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, his then chief of staff, Major-General Chris Garba (rtd), his wife, Rita, and Andrew Agom, a senior government official who is late.
The bribe was reportedly given to the officials by a Britisha lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler,who served as the middle man between Halliburton and Nigerian officials who were responsible for approving the $6 billion contract for the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) project in Bonny, Rivers State.
Speaking at the end of his 2012 sentencing hearing after pleading guilty to the corruption charges for his role in the case , Tesler said, “there is no day when I do not regret my weakness of character, I allowed myself to accept standards of behaviour in a business culture which can never be justified. I accepted the system of corruption that existed in Nigeria. I turned a blind eye to what was happening, and I am guilty of the offences charged.”
The details released by Le Monde and ICIJ, brought to the fore, existing ties between Tesler and high-ranking Nigerians who were not publicly named, Thisday reports.
Chris and Rita Garuba did not respond to ICIJ’s inquiries for their own comments. Tesler on the other hand, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and compelled to forfeit $149 million from his Swiss accounts to the US government.
Tesler, now 66, has served his sentence and since returned to England, he had said he would “spend the last few years, which God may graciously grant me, to seek forgiveness”. He also shunned ICIJ’s inquiries for comment.
A 2010 Nigerian government document on the bribery scandal 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. However, the report was not released publicly.
“In terms of the personalities and the amount of money involved it is probably the biggest scandal in Nigeria’s history,” said Dauda Garuba, Nigeria's coordinator at the Natural Resource Governance Institute.
“But 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,” Garuba lamented.
Meanwhile, following a request by the United States government, President Buhari has ordered the re-opening of the widely publicized Halliburton bribery case.