Look who answered that email solicitation from Nigeria
Nigeria: Atiku - Congressman Jefferson Indicted
5 June 2007
Posted to the web 5 June 2007
Washington DC And Phillip Ogunmade in Lagos
United States Congressman William Jefferson of New Orleans was yesterday indicted on corruption charges in a long-running bribery investigation into business deals he tried to broker in Nigeria and some other African countries.
Among the charges listed in the indictment, said the official, are racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money-laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The Jefferson probe had reverberated in Nigeria when it triggered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigation in to the activities of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), which former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was then supervising.
Just yesterday, Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), urged the EFCC to arraign former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar over allegations of self enrichment and corruption.
The Associated Press reported that the indictment, handed up Monday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, is 94 pages long and lists 16 alleged violations of federal law.
AP quoted a Justice Department official, who though was not authorised to discuss the case but has seen the document, as saying that the violations could keep Jefferson in prison for up to 235 years.
For two years, Jefferson has been the target of the investigation into whether he took bribes in return for using his influence to promote the business deals. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Jefferson is accused of soliciting bribes for himself and his family, and also for bribing a Nigerian official.
The 63-year-old lawmaker, whose Louisiana district includes New Orleans, has said little about the case publicly but has maintained his innocence. He was re-elected last year despite the looming investigation.
He has been under suspicion in connection with his efforts to promote contracts in Africa for iGate, a small digital-technology company based in Louisville, Kentucky. The Congressman has been influential on African issues in his years in the House.
The head of the technology company, Vernon L. Jackson, has already pleaded guilty to paying more than $400,000 and $1 million in bribes in exchange for his assistance in securing business deals in Nigeria and other African nations. Jackson was sentenced to seven years in prison.
In 2005, as the inquiry progressed, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents raided Jefferson's home, opened a freezer and found $90,000 in cash, money the investigators said was intended for a bribe of a Nigerian politician on behalf of Jackson.
In return for promoting the digital company in Africa, the Congressman demanded part-ownership of the business for his family, investigators have alleged.
Investigators maintain that Jefferson prodded the Pentagon to test iGate products, lobbied politicians in several African countries to include the company in telecommunications projects, and repeatedly urged the Export-Import Bank of the United States to finance the deals.
Brett Pfeffer, a former congressional aide, also admitted soliciting bribes on Jefferson's behalf and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Both Pfeffer and Jackson agreed to cooperate in the case against Jefferson in exchanges for their pleas.
The impact of the case stretched across continents and even roiled presidential politics in Nigeria.
According to court records, Jefferson told associates that he needed cash to pay bribes to former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Though the former Vice President denied the allegations, it however triggered a series of investigations in Nigeria and figured prominently in the April Presidential election.
Court records indicate that Jefferson was videotaped taking a $100,000 cash bribe from an FBI informant. Most of that money later turned up in a freezer in his home.
In May 2006, the FBI also raided Jefferson's congressional office, the first such raid on a sitting congressman's Capitol office. That move sparked a constitutional debate over whether the executive branch stepped over its boundary.
The legality of the raid is still being argued on appeal. House leaders objected to the search saying it was an unconstitutional intrusion on the lawmaking process. The FBI said the raid was necessary because Jefferson and his legal team had failed to respond to requests for documents.
Some but not all the documents seized in the raid have been turned over Justice Department prosecutors.
Meanwhile, Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), yesterday urged the EFCC to arraign former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice, Atiku Abubakar over allegations of self enrichment and corruption.
He made the call during the wreath laying ceremony in remembrance of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late business mogul, Chief Moshood Abiola, who was killed on June 4, 1996 at the heat of the struggle for the actualisation of June 12 Presidential election believed to have been won by Abiola.
Fawehinmi appealed to the commission, which he said had hitherto done well in the fight against corruption, to commence the process of prosecuting both Obasanjo and the former Atiku.