Construction giant Julius Berger has pleaded guilty to being an accessory and conduit for distributing bribes to top government officials in respect of Siemens and Halliburton scandal and has agreed to pay Nigeria $29.5 million in settlement, THISDAY can reveal.
Julius Berger will, however, pay the fine which emerged from the plea bargain entered into with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Muhammed Adoke (SAN) in two installments.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government will sue Halliburton for $2 billion in the United States for bribes paid by the company in Nigeria.
Government had moved to begin the trial of suspects in the $180 million Halliburton bribery scandal on September 6 when it filed two separate charges against some individuals and corporations which included Julius Berger for breaching the money laundering laws. The bribery scandal was in respect of the $6 billion Bonny Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) contracts.
But the trial of the seven persons including Personal Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Adeyanju Bodunde, and corporations indicted in the bribery scandal took off on a shaky ground on September 7 as the Federal Government asked for more time to enable it to effect service of the charges on the accused persons.
When the court registrar called the case, a state counsel, Mrs. Omotunde Fatunde, asked the trial judge, Justice David Okorowo, to grant her a short adjournment to enable government to serve the suspects with the charges.
Justice Okorowo, however, said he could not adjourn the case to any specific date but would rather return the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Dan Abutu, to re-assign to another judge.
Those indicted whose trial should have commenced included Bodunde, George Mark, Jeffrey Tesler (said to be at large), Hans George Christ, Heinrich J. Stockhausen; Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and Bilfinger Berger GMBH.
THISDAY has now learnt that the trial of Bodunde and others will commence this week.
The law firms of J.B. Daudu, G. O. Obla and E. C. Ukala, along with the Director of Public Prosecution would be prosecuting the case.
Julius Berger was alleged to have made the payment of $5 million to Bodunde. The money was said to have been traceable to the funds for the 2003 presidential election.
But the deal between Julius Berger and Adoke was said to have been signed about two weeks ago in the office of the AGF in Abuja. At the meeting which also had the Federal Government’s prosecutors in attendance, the construction giant pleaded guilty and agreed to pay the fine as settlement.
One of the two charges filed against the suspects by the Federal Government was filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, while the other was filed at the Abuja High Court. The case at the Federal High Court with suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/146/2010 has six suspects who allegedly made the $5 billion payment to Bodunde.
Other suspects charged before the Federal High Court are George Mark, Jeffrey Tesler (said to be at large), Hans George Christ, Heinrich J. Stockhausen; Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and Bilfinger Berger GMBH.
The suspects at the Abuja High Court will answer to a 13-count charge. They are Ibrahim Aliyu (a former federal permanent secretary), Air Vice Marshall Abdullahi Dominic Bello; Mohammed Gidado Bakare; Urban Shelter Limited; Intercellular Nigeria Limited; Sherwood Petroleum Limited; Tri-Star Investment Limited; Maizube Holdings Limited; TSKJ Nigeria Limited - (a) Technip S.A.; (b) Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. (c) Kellog Brown and Root Inc(d) Japan Gasoline Corporation of Japan.
Albert J. Stanley had already admitted before a Houston Court in the US on September 4, 2008, that he channelled more than $180 million in bribe to senior Nigerian government officials.
Stanley alleged that the bribe was channelled through a UK-based lawyer, Mr. Jeffery Tesler, in four installments of $60 million, $32.5 million, $51 million and $23 million.
The Federal Government had said it might move for the extradition of Tesler to hasten the trial of the suspects.Part of the charges against the six suspects are: "That you, George Mark, Jeffrey Tesler (now at large), Hans George Christ, Heinrich J. Stockhausen; Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Bilfinger Berger GMBH, some time between 2002 and 2003 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired among yourselves to make several cash payments in the sum of US$1 million (five times) totalling in equivalent the sum of $5 million to one Adeyanju Bodunde and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 16 of the Money Laundering Act 1995 (as saved by Section 23(2) of the Money Laundering Act 2004) and punishable under Section 15(2) and (3) of the Money Laundering Act 1995 (as saved by Section 23(2) of the Money Laundering Act, 2004).”
Meanwhile, Adoke is to sue Halliburton for $2 billion in the United States over the bribe scandal. Halliburton had in February last year pleaded guilty to federal charges in the US that it paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to secure the NLNG contracts.
Kellogg, Brown and Root, the engineering, construction and services company and its former parent, Halliburton, had agreed to pay a combined $579 million to settle US criminal and civil charges that KBR bribed Nigerian government officials to obtain contracts.