By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Mr. Damian Dodo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, has told interrogators how five lawyers, who prosecuted multinational firms implicated in the $185 million Halliburton bribery scandal, were paid close to $26 million as legal fees.
Dodo, who was interrogated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for over eight hours, last Thursday, said the five lawyers were duly engaged by the Federal Government to handle the case and bring culprits to book, having been indicted by their respective home countries.
Dodo’s defence is contained in a response he made to the EFCC, a copy of which Sunday Vanguard obtained last night.
Meanwhile, EFCC operatives were said to be scrutinizing government accounts, last night, to ascertain where the refund was made. The four other lawyers involved in the case, it was also learnt, may be grilled by the anti-corruption agency.
In his response to the EFCC, Dodo maintained that he and the four other lawyers carried out their job so successfully that the Federal Government, in appreciation, conferred on some members of the legal team national honours.
The SAN explained that the five top lawyers involved in the prosecution of the companies reached an understanding with a former Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, to be paid from fines imposed on the indicted companies since he had complained that the Federal Government did not have a budget for their legal fees.
He pointed out that they followed the precedent set in the case involving Pfizer and Kano State Government on one hand, and the Federal Government on the other, in which the drug manufacturing company was made to pay the legal fees of the lawyers involved in the amicable settlement of the matter.
In the response to the EFCC, it was stated that the legal team, raised by Adoke, was led by the then President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph B. Daudu, with Mr. Emmanuel C. Ukala, Chief Godwin Obla, Roland Ewubare and Dodo as members.
The companies involved in the bribery scandal, and which opted for payment of heavy fines and non-prosecution by Nigeria, were: Halliburton Energy Services; Siemens AG; TSKJ, Technip of France: Snamprogetti of Italy; Kellog, Brown and Roots of the U.S; Japan Gas Corporation; and Julius Berger, JB, which was accused of acting as a conduit for the illegal transfer of $5 million.
To avoid prosecution, JB immediately opted to pay a fine of $35 million to Nigeria and, accordingly, was left off the hook.
The professional fee in respect of the settlement by JB was paid into the account of JB Daudu and Co on behalf of the legal team.
Siemens similarly opted for out of court settlement and paid €30,000,000 to the Nigerian government.
The legal fee from the company was paid into the account of Godwin Obla of Obla and Co on behalf of the legal team.
The settlement with Snamprogetti was reached by the legal team on December 10, 2010, and the sum of $30 million was recovered from the firm and paid into the account of the Federal Government while the legal fees for the lawyers were paid into the account of Godwin Obla for and on behalf of the team.
In the case of Halliburton Energy Services, the settlement attracted $32.5 million for the Federal Government while the legal fee went into the account of D.D. Dodo and Co. for and on behalf of the team.
Japan Gasoline Corporation attracted a settlement fine of $26.5 million for Nigeria and the legal fee for the settlement went into the account of D.D.Dodo and Co.
In the statement to EFCC, Dodo said,”But in all, the professional fees and costs due the legal team as received by the trio of J.B.Daudu, Godwin Obla and D.D.Dodo were disbursed to members of the legal team as directed by their leader, J. B.Daudu.”
The statement went on: “It is worth pointing out that relevant agencies of government were involved in the settlement agreements including the offices of the National Security Adviser and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“The Secretary of the EFCC, Mr. Emmanuel Akomaye, witnessed three of the agreements, namely, Snamprogetti,Halliburton and Japan Gasoline Corporation on behalf of the Federal Government.”
The senior lawyer defended the payments made to them, arguing that the fees were legal.
Quoting clause six of the agreement reached with the Japan Gasoline Corporation, Dodo, said, “The Federal Government of Nigeria confirms that the reimbursement of the government legal costs to the designated counsel in the terms of the agreement is lawful under the Nigerian laws and regulations, and the government counsel has confirmed to the Federal Government of Nigeria that no proceeds of such reimbursement will be provided to any government officials”.
However, the EFCC, set to invite all the lawyers involved in the case separately for their statements, does not seem satisfied with the submission by Dodo.
The anti-graft body, Sunday Vanguard discovered, is trying to ascertain how the lawyers arrived at the legal fee of ten percent and, if indeed, the $200 million said to have been recovered from the culprits, was remitted to the coffers of the Federal Government.
EFCC in search of accounts
As at last night, the operatives were combing records to confirm which accounts of government the Halliburton fines were paid into and when.
There were indications also that the former ministers and other top players in government linked with the matter may be invited to state their own side of the story.
Irony of Halliburton case
The irony in the case is that while the different countries, whose the multinational companies paid bribes to get major contracts for the construction of the LNG trains in Bonny Island in Rivers State, have since been convicted for bribery, Nigerian officials, who aided and abetted the scam, are still walking free and enjoying their loot.
The top officials are said to be wielding both political and economic power, thereby making it very difficult to bring them to trial.
Most of them are said to have threatened to descend on the system if any move is made to prosecute them.
But the current Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has warned that the Halliburton case and other criminal cases have not been closed.
Malami said that given the zero disposition of the Buhari administration, it would be impossible to close such cases.