- Category: ARTICLES
- Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Nigeria - IT has come to light that over $150 million of the $180 million Halliburton bribe money was allegedly disbursed through the account of former Chief of Air Staff, AVM A.D. Bello (rtd), while the sum of $11.5 million of the bribe money was found in Ibrahim Aliyu's foreign account, according to sources at the Special Investigation Panel headed by Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro.
However, investigators are shocked that AVM Bello is sticking to his defence that though the account through which the $180 million was disbursed was his, he had no knowledge of when or how the huge sum of money was disbursed and who the beneficiaries were.
AVM Bello (rtd) was also a former Managing Director of defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways, while Ibrahim Aliyu is a brother to the governor of Niger State, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu.
Both men have been in detention for some time after their arrest by the investigation panel.
Vanguard gathered that the federal government also at the weekend requested the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to extradite one Mr. Jeffery Tessler, a Briton and lawyer of both AVM Bello and Ibrahim Aliyu who allegedly disbursed the $180 million bribe money through their accounts to help reveal the names of the beneficiaries.
Consequently, the investigating team, led by CP Amodu Ali of the Special Investigation Unit of the Police Force headquarters has no iota of doubt that Air Vice Marshal 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 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 (2001), he closed that account to any transaction whatsoever, and was therefore at a loss to how the account was used.
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 closed down the account in 2001 and that he was not aware of any transaction with it.
This, our sources said, he has failed to do for almost two weeks now.
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 don't need to have directors to be opened, rather what they have is a nominee director and Mr. Tessler is the only nominee director.
"That 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.
Ibrahim Aliyu's role
On the role of the brother of the governor of Niger State, the source said the same Mr. Tessler who is based in the UK, is both a business partner and lawyer to Ibrahim Aliyu and that he was the one Aliyu used to open an offshore account through which he (Aliyu) was to concretise his ownership of an oil block in Nigeria.
The source noted that when the account was opened in a Swiss bank, a huge amount of money from the Halliburton bribery money was found to have been moved through it while the sum of $11.5million was found in the account. He added that about $5million was also frozen from the same Aliyu's account by the foreign investigators.
Asked how long it would take before the names of those already made known by foreign investigators of having taken part in the sharing of the $180million was made public, the source said: "That is why we are going the extra mile to get Mr. Tessler because he disbursed the money."
It will be recalled that following public outcry over the $180million Halliburton bribery scandal, the Federal Government set up a five-man inter-agency investigation panel headed by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mike Okiro.
Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa, inaugurated the panel on April 21, 2009, and charged it to, among others, examine the circumstances surrounding the Halliburton bribery scandal in the Bonny Liquefied Natural Gas Project
A senior officer involved in the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity told Vanguard that by the time names are being mentioned in the coming days or we see the calibre of persons that are arrested, Nigerians would be shocked. He added that time has come for Nigerians to be told the truth about what is happening to their country.
Indications are also rife that more important personalities, including very senior citizens of the country both in and outside government are among those indicted. Past ministers, and top government officials would soon be picked up as investigations progresses because of information available to the investigating team, the source said.
Written by Ise-Oluwa Ige & Ikechukwu Nnochiri