By Akin Oyedele, Abuja Monday, 6 Sep 2010
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission explained on Sunday why the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice would prosecute the suspects involved in the $180m Halliburton bribery scandal.
It said that the AGF“s office had earlier taken up the matter when the late President, Alhaji Umaru Yar Adua, directed a high-powered committee headed by a former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, to investigate the matter.
The anti-graft agency, however, said that its report prepared the ground for the planned prosecution of the suspects.
“We submitted our report to the presidential panel. You should know that we prosecute all cases on behalf of the Federal Government and by extension the AGF” the EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Babafemi, told our correspondent in Abuja.
The AGF represents the Federal Government in all the matters and if they prosecute any case directly, no law has been breached. There is no aberration in that because we are working toward a similar goal,” Babafemi added.
The AGF had reportedly filed charges before a Federal High Court, Abuja and the Federal Capital Territory High Court, against 15 individuals and corporate organisations connected with the scandal.
Among those listed for prosecution are a former aide to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Adeyanju Bodunde; a former Chief of Air Staff, Air-Vice Marshal Abdullahi Bello; Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu; and some multinational companies.
Curiously, all the big names earlier mentioned in the slush fund, such as ex-heads of state and former ministers were left out for undisclosed reasons.
Following persistent calls by civil society organisations for his prosecution over the Halliburton matter, Obasanjo had on May 29 this year written President Goodluck Jonathan, asking him to unmask the suspects in the matter.
Obasanjo had said, Except for the payment of $2.5m to Chief Dan Etete, under the false identity of “Omoni Amafegha, allegedly in the context of the purchase of five per cent of the shares in Malabu Oil, no payment to high (ranking) Nigerian official has been identified yet.
Examination of bank accounts (of suspects) has not shown any important cash withdrawal.
Unless such elements are found, it will be impossible to obtain the conviction of Mr. Jeffrey Tesler and forfeiture of the frozen monies in favour of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It is my hope that the content of this letter would bring about a decision of the FG to make available to the public, the full details of the circumstances surrounding the Halliburton bribe scandal and who, if anybody, are the culprits.
The scandal involved a former subsidiary of Halliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root, which was accused of giving bribe in respect of the nation’s liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny, Rivers State.
The United States had prosecuted Halliburton and some individuals involved in the scandal.
The EFCC had initiated investigations into the bribe in 2004 and 2008 and came up with reports before the Presidency took over the case.
The late Yar Adua then inaugurated the Okiro-led committee to probe the scandal. The anti-graft agency was thereafter directed to submit an interim report to the committee for further action.
Before the panel took over the matter from the EFCC, a top official of the commission had said its team of investigators had reached a level at which the identities of some of the suspects had been unraveled.
Source: The Punch