By Kingsley Omonobi
FOLLOWING last weekâ€™s revelation by the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, that documents and evidence needed by the Nigerian authorities to prosecute culprits in the $180million Halliburton scandal have been made available, Vanguard can report authoritatively that the Federal Government has drawn up a list of indicted persons recommended for prosecution for allegedly sharing the bribe money.
The list includes such names as former Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal A. D. Bello alleged to have collected $15. 7million using his foreign account, for himself and a former military head of state; Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu, elder brother of the Niger State governor and former federal permanent secretary alleged to have collected over $35million for himself and others including a former military head of state, and Alhaji Abdukadir Abacha, brother of late head of state also alleged to have collected $7million using his foreign firm as front.
Other names on the list are a former Minister of Petroleum, Chief Dan Etete, alleged to have collected $3. 5million, using his oil firm as front; former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Jackson Gaius Obaseki, alleged to haveÂ facilitated the collection of about $11million that was shared between Bodunde Adeyanju, former Special Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Minister of State for Defence, Lawal Batagarawa, and a frontline political party.
Also contained in the list was Alhaji Gidado Bakare of the defunct CITI Bank who was detained for over one month during investigation. He was alleged to have collected more than $60million for himself, a former military head of state and other prominent persons in the North.
Collection and disbursement of funds
Bakare was alleged to have used two companies in the collection and disbursements.
There are also names of two former board members of a construction giant, Mr. Mark George, who was alleged to have collected $6million from Mr. Jeffrey Tesler and helped transfer the money to two top shots of the frontline political party and a special assistant to a former head of state.
Vanguard gathered, however, that while Bodunde, allegedly agreed that he collected $6million from the construction giant, he told the panel that it had nothing to do with his former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo but that he only handed the money over to Mallam Lawal Batagarawa.
It was learnt that Batagarawa, who earlier denied collecting any money from Bodunde, later allegedly accepted collecting the money but said it had noting to do with Obasanjo, and that the money was handed over to a party.
Vanguard also gathered, weekend, that Alhaji Abdulkadir Abacha, who had used delay tactics severally to skip being interrogated by the panel, finally appeared before it last month to state his role in the alleged sharing.
Another top shot who appeared before the panel and whose evidence Vanguard learnt has helped to clear a lot of grey areas, was a former Company Secretary of the Nigeria National Liquified Gas Company,Â who was allegedly privy to the signing of all the agreements and execution of the contract between the Nigerian government and representatives of Halliburton company.
Desperate effort to frustrate panel’s work
Further findings by Vanguard showed that evidences from the progress report available in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation have been found to corroborate those sent by the American government to the AGFâ€™s. It was learnt that the former AGF, Michael Aondoakaa, deliberately tried to frustrate the panelâ€™s work.
A source told Vanguard that following the passing of information on Halliburton to the authorities, the American government was waiting to see what the Acting President wouldÂ do with the two reports. The issue is whether he will continue the fight against corruption of his boss, Yarâ€™Adua, with his new Attorney General, Adoke, or sweep the findings under the carpet as Aondoakaa allegedly attempted.
Vanguard had earlier reported, that several months after the five-man panel concluded the Nigerian leg of its investigation and secured visas to travel abroad for the foreign leg of the investigation, officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, scuttled the travel arrangements made for the panel to travel to conclude the investigations.
They did so by ensuring that the briefs, questionnaires and information needed by the panel to do their work abroad, which were to be translated into Spanish, French, Latin and German, in accordance with procedure, were sat on for over six months, to the extent that the visas issued in October with a December 4 deadline, for panel members to travel expired with the panel still in Nigeria.
Consequently, it emerged that the trip abroad would not take place again thereby sending a sad message of lack of seriousness to the foreign countries that the government of Nigeriaâ€™s talk about unearthing the truth about the Halliburton scam was mere political talk.
The panel members were scheduled to travel to France, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Germany for two weeks in separate batches, to investigate how the monies were distributed, the codes used, how the facilitator and key foreign suspect, Jeffrey Tesler tricked the Nigerian beneficiaries, as well as the extent of involvement of two former heads of state in the sharing of the loot.
Employment of private translators
When it became clear that the Foreign Affairs Ministry was not forthcoming with the translation, the panel had to request the withdrawal of the documents and employed private experts that eventually carried out the translation but at that time the visas had expired.
It would be recalled that President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua had made all arrangements, including release of funds to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that a proper conclusion was arrived at by the panel. He had approved N50million, last September for the panel members to embark on the foreign leg of the investigation following the submission of the panelâ€™s interim report.
Payment of outstanding allowances to the panel members and investigators were also to be effected from the money.
…AVM Bello denies involvement
AVM Bello has vehemently denied knowing anything about the Halliburton deal. According to him, one of the accounts in question is an offshore account which was opened in 2001 and closed towards the end of that year.
The investigating team, led by CP Amodu Ali of the Special Investigation Unit of the Police Force Headquarters hadÂ insisted that Air Vice Marshall Bello (rtd) was in a position to disclose the beneficiaries of the Halliburton bribery money and the amount each of them got.
According to Vanguard sources, one of the accounts in question is an off-shore account allegedly opened in London for Bello by Jeffery Tessler. He (Bello) said that the account was opened in 2001 and that towards the end of that year, he closed that account to any transaction whatsoever, stressing that he was, therefore, at a loss as to how the account was used.
Operation of offshore account
Having tried to reach the lawyer (Tessler) and failed, the Police investigating team asked AVM Bello to furnish it with documents of the offshore account showing that he closedÂ the account in 2001 and that he was not aware of any transaction with it.
Asked how such account could be in operation over a period of time and the documents of transaction carried out with it could not be traced, the source said such offshore accounts donâ€™t need to have directors to be opened, rather what they had was a nominee director and that Mr. Tessler is the only nominee director.
â€œThat is why we have requested our American counterparts to intervene on our behalf over the arrest of Mr. Tessler and we are aware that motions have been put in place for the extradition of Mr. Tessler to America to answer questions,” the source said.
AVM Bello was at a time, detained on the instructions of the Okiro Committee over the Halliburton scandal. Relations then approached the Abuja High Court to enforce his fundamental human rights. He was arrested on April 27, and held incommunicado from his family, relations and lawyers, despite his protest that he knew nothing of Teslerâ€™s dealings with Halliburton.
The relations applied to court for: Declaration that the arrest of the applicant on April 27, 2009 in Lagos by officers and men under the command of the Respondents was illegal, unconstitutional and against the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peopleâ€™s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement).
He was later released.