There were indications in Abuja at the weekend that the reluctance of the American federal Bureau of Investigation to release sensitive information requested from them by the Mike Okiro led inter-agency panel into the $190million Halliburton bribe scam was not unconnected with a decision by the American authorities to prevent two former heads of state and a former Vice President implicated in the scam from being exposed.
However, a determined President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua who sources close to the panel say is bent on unraveling the culprits behind the bribery scam has ordered a visit of the Okiro panel to Switzerland where some of the bribe monies were traced to, to verify the owners of the account and try to unlock the codes through which the monies were transferred into them.
According to sources, President Yarâ€™Adua who is said to be pained that he personally wrote that American authorities for assistance over the investigation of the bribery scam and his request was treated shabbily, has given the go ahead for all other avenues to be sought in unmasking those involved in the scam hence the visit to Switzerland in the first instance.
Already, the panel is said to have received favourable responses from other countries such as Britain where a principal suspect in the whole saga, Mr. Tessler hails from and Germany.
Saturday Vanguard further gathered that the ability of the panel to unlock the confessions of some of those invited and quizzed in relation to the roles played by the former leaders, would lead to the completion of the job of the Okiro panel.
It would be recalled that the inter-agency panel last week called the bluff of the American government over the failure of the FBI to assist the panel corroborate the confessions of some prime suspects during interrogation which is key to their being nailed.
As a result, the Okiro panel contacted Britain, Switzerland and Germany to assist it with information about the activities of both the Nigerian beneficiaries and their foreign collaborators which they have he wherewithal to get and which they provided the FBI team that earlier investigated the involvement of both their citizens and the Nigerian conspirators.
The action of the Okiro panel which is seen as a bold move towards ensuring that the panel completes its job on schedule inspite of many attempt at frustrating it is also aimed at helping the panel unlock certain codes with which huge sums of the money were paid into accounts of either the beneficiaries or cronies acting as fronts for some beneficiaries.
Reacting to the action of the Americans, a source close to the panel had expressed surprise that the same American authorities who tell the world that they are against corruption in all ramifications and are ready to cooperate with any government willing to fight the scourge, are the ones reneging on their promise and wondered why the same Americans are trying to put studs in the wheel of progress of the panel.
The source had said, â€œWe made all necessary contacts with the American authorities through the highest level of government for about four weeks now. We know they have what we want and they know it will help unravel the knotty issues. They initially asked us to give then two weeks.
Later they said the time is not enough that we should give them some more weeks. They are just trying to frustrate the work of the panel. But we are going through other alternatives. We must finish the work according to scheduleâ€.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation first investigated the scam and indicted some of its citizens for engaging in fraudulent and corrupt acts of bribing some prominent Nigerian including former heads of state, former ministers, former NNPC GMDâ€™s and others whose foreign accounts were either used to carry out the distribution to secure contract jobs which is seen as unethical practice