It Starts With: “Hello. I am a Prosecutor in Nigeria …

[Ed. note: Mary provides some background on what may be up with Nigeria’s announced plan to charge Dick Cheney.]

… ready to sue your Vice President. Please send 130 Million Dollars by reply mail to …”

After the news about charges against Dick Cheney relating to the Nigerian bribery scandal it may be worthwhile to sip some coffee and swap clues on what the heck might (or might not) be going on. Let’s start with a little background on one sliver of a very complicated matter.

In 1995-2004, KBR was involved in a joint venture in Nigeria that included KBR/Halliburton; a Dutch subsidiary Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V/Italian parent ENI S.p.A. (aka Snamprogetti, ENI), a Paris-based oilfield engineering company Technip S.A., and a Japanese company, JGC. The joint venture set up some special purpose corporations (not that unusual when companies joint venture) in Portugal (okay, maybe they don’t always use Portugal). The business entities and structures are pretty much oversimplified here, but since these pretty much track the pleas deals the Department of Justice worked out, let’s not make it more complicated.

This joint venture wanted to split up some liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracts in Nigeria that were going to be worth around $6 billion to them.  Those kinds of big contract almost always get split up, for various (and some actually pretty darn good) reasons.  When the “TSKJ” group was trying to get the liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracts, their bidding rival was another consortium, BCSA (Bechtel, Chiyoda, Spibat, Ansaldo).

Not to jump around, but for context, you need to know how the Nigeria scandal (arrangements to bribe Nigerian officials to get the LNG contract)  was “exposed.”  A former “Director General” of Technip, Georges Krammer, was accused of wrongdoing in a different deal (involving France’s Elf) and argued that he was just following company policy.  Supposedly, Technip hung him out to dry and he decided to return the favor by offering up info against Technip, regarding deals that included the Nigerian LNG bribes.  .

When the French began investigating, the Swiss and US and Nigeria also started investigations.  If, by investigation, you mean the thing that happens when you throw a hunk of raw meat into a pen of well fed dogs and see which one grabs it and growls loudest, whether it plans on doing anything much with it or not. 

At this point you get into a lot of finger pointing as to who authorized or pressured for what.  The end result is that the TSKJ group ended up “hiring” a company called Tri-Star Investments, Ltd. that was being used by a UK-based lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler.  Money meant for bribes to Nigerian officials went  to Tesler and Tri-Star (about $180 million).  They tried to paper over this arrangement as being something in the nature of PR payments to Tri-Star to help with their image in Nigeria.  Another UK citizen,  Wojciech Chodan, was an employee or consultant of Halliburton/KBR entities involved in the Nigerian deal  and worked extensively with the Nigerian joint venture, reporting to a Halliburton/KBR guy named Jack Stanley who was in Houston, Texas.

You followed that? Really?  Great.

So the U.S. has muscle, a statute (the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act), a person (Jack Stanley, located in Houston, TX), a market all the TSKJ group need, and a vice president who is implicated.  Guess which well-fed dog growls loudest?

A great blog, the FCPA blog, has a series of articles summarizing the deferred prosecution and plea deals that the U.S. cut with the companies involved.   This article has links to articles in the series that discuss the U.S. guilty plea of KBR in February 2009 ($402 million fine) and Halliburton ($177 million disgorgement); and deals made by Snamprogetti, ENI ($365mill)  and Technip ($338 million).  Those deals all came after a deal made by KBR’s former CEO, Jack Stanley.

Back in September of 2008, Stanley entered into a plea agreement (pdf) that laid out some interesting details.  Not only was Stanley setting up bribes, he had received a $10.8 million kickback himself.  And in September of this year, the DOJ had to go to court to explain why the wanted to keep Stanley free for now, despite his two-year old plea.  At that time, it came out that the $182 million that the consortium had kicked in for bribes to Nigerian officials — well, it seems as if $130 million may not have made it into Nigerian hands after all.  It  might be sitting in a Swiss bank account the U.S. has managed to have frozen.

Nigerian watchers were pretty interested in that.  The Nigerian story provides the hints on what might be going on with the decision to file charges against Cheney, since there is a $130 million account at stake.

A highly-placed source, who was central to the investigation, said: “During the trial of the ex-CEO of Halliburton, the US government traced about $130million to Tesler’s account. It means that the $180 milion was not wholly disbursed.

“After the conviction of the former Halliburton boss, the US Department of Justice succeeded in convincing the Swiss authorities to freeze access to the bribe sum by Tesler.

“That is why the Commissioner of Police, Presidential Panel of Investigation, Amodu Ali and his team recommended the trial of the 15 suspects.

“Nigeria can only have the $130 million repatriated, if only the bribe beneficiaries in Nigeria are tried and justice meted out.”

The story discusses some of the tension between the U.S. and Nigeria in their efforts to get extradition of Tesler (and presumably Chodan, the UK-based employee-then-consultant).  So, from a timeline standpoint, you have Nigeria finding out in September of this year that there’s $130 million just sitting in an account (when the DOJ made it’s pitch for Stanley, despite his plea deal back in 2008, to continue to stay free until at least January, 2011).

Earlier this year, in March and April respectively, Tesler and Chodan had lost initial rounds in UK courts fighting against extradition.  But for some unknown reason, on November 8, Chodan gives up his fight against extradition.  And a recent  (Dec 1) Guardian article (I can’t get the link to work — I get server messages — the title should be Retired UK businessman faces extradition to the U.S.)  says he’ll be here within 10 days.  With the distinct implication that Tesler is coming right behind him.  Competing with that story is the Nigerian roundups of various oil industry officials and the release that in addition to the 15 individuals and companies formerly indicted in Nigeria — it’s adding Cheney to the list.

In the midst of all this, with the $130 million beckoning and Dick Cheney making his all too familiar gesture as well, off goes Eric Holder to Zurich with the  cover story that he’s there to bolster our pitch to get the World Cup  (in 2022, which will be 6-10 years after Holder and Obama are long gone) by demonstrating in all kinds of ways that Bill Clinton (also on the delegation) can’t, that the US will be able to “safely” host the World Cup without terrorism threats.  In addition to Holder, nothing says SCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE like Bill Clinton.

The Gods of Irony love this so much that they make sure it comes a) at the same time leaked U.S. cables call Qatar “the worst” on counterterrorism in the Middle East, and b) it’s followed by the award of the World Cup to … you got it — Qatar.

Obama expects the press to buy the story that Holder is in Zurich to hit hard on that all important 2022 counterterrorism safety issue at the same time Qatar is walking off with the award.  And no one bothers to ask Holder if he’ll be talking to officials in Zurich about the $130 million in the frozen Tesler account, especially now that Nigeria is indicting Cheney.

Obamaco is beginning to have the same elements of farce found in the Robert Ludlum “Road to” novels.

Apparently the Road to Obamaha leads through Zurich.

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  1. radiofreewill says:

    So, how soon until the Nigerians will be offering Cheney an apology and pocketing $130M of our tax-payer dollars…instead of Halliburton’s money?

  2. Margaret says:

    If we lived in a just world, Bush, Cheney, Rummy, “Freddo”, Ashcroft, Yoo, Hadley, etc would all be packed into an enclave in Dubai, too terrified to come out.

  3. Mauimom says:

    I hope Wikileaks has some good documents to release on these latter moves by the Obama folks.

    Perhaps that’s the cause of the sudden ramp-up in hatred towards the spot.

    • spanishinquisition says:

      So far Wikileaks hasn’t released their Top Secret cables, which I got the impression that Wikileaks was withholding releasing the most classified files along with the most dirt as a means of insurance, but if Assange is arrested or something else happens, that is when the hellhounds would be released. There’s been major misreporting by the media claiming that Wikileaks has released Top Secret cables, which so far they haven’t.

      • PeasantParty says:

        People in Sweden are saying the charges against Assange are all faked and news worthy only for the US.

        • spanishinquisition says:

          But once he’s in custody, he can be extradited to the US – it doesn’t matter if the original charge in whatever country he is in is valid. Word is that he might already be under secret indictment here in the US.

          • bmaz says:

            Um, no, I seriously doubt it. First off, there really just is no jurisdiction for the US to charge Assange and I would also think it highly debatable the US could overcome a challenge by Assange to an extradition request.

    • Margaret says:

      Perhaps that’s the cause of the sudden ramp-up in hatred towards the spot.

      Pffft! I don’t assign Obama that much “integrity” such as it is. I think he’s just deferring to the Republicans again.

  4. grayslady says:

    So, the Nigerians made a play for Cheney hoping that would loose the purse strings on the $130 million? Anyone else was just small fry and wouldn’t gain the attention of the U.S.?

  5. bobash says:

    After reading Taibbi’s Griftopia last nite before I fell asleep, and waking up and reading the unemployment figure headline and then this, I’m just going to spend the rest of the day doing manual labor around the house. Must take care of my mental health.

    Congrats on a very insightful post nonetheless.

  6. DWBartoo says:

    Ah, Mary, what a delightful peek into a can-o-worms.

    Layer upon layer of deceit, clever deviousness, and vapid political calculation.

    Such complexity is designed to inspire great reluctance on the part of the average citizen to look into any of this; the eyes glaze, the chest sinks, a wee headache pops up, the mind boggles, the spirit sags … and it all goes on anyway, ramping up to further greedy little doings that the masters might amuse themselves with their own power and status above the law, well, actually, the “law” is cheering them on, supporting them completely … every step of the way.

    BTW Mary, your “primers” of some short time ago were truly stellar and have been passed on to a number of friends of mine who happen to be attorneys in need of some thoughts about the law and, specifically, the rule of law.

    Much appreciation to you Mary.

    And … I look, most eagerly, forward to seeing you in the “headlines” whenever you are moved to be there.

    DW

    • Mary says:

      Thanks a lot and to everyone else who thought it was interesting. It’s hard to know on something like this if you managed to keep it coherent or not.

      I’m like Bobash now – I have to go do some barn work and then immerse in real work paper work to get away from it all for awhile.

  7. Broadstreetbuddy says:

    Great post but im confused. Is Eric Holder going over there for the benefit of Dick Cheney or just to try to work out a deal?

  8. perris says:

    since we now have official documentation that obama pressured spain out of prosecuting cheney for torture, we know as a fact he will do the same in this case

    I sure hope impeachment is not off the table for republicans cause I will support it

    • Rayne says:

      I’ll play devil’s advocate for a second…let’s say for the hell of it that the cables were leaked intentionally as a method of resetting all negotiations. (Think about it: every fleabag place in the world has been a problem because of the invisible conversations going on for years. This changes everything and clears up any illusions.)

      And let’s say early in the administration that too much deference was given to the previous administration which has now proved another invisible piece of baggage. AND Spain would be slow, careful and too nice to old DeadEye in the process of prosecuting war crimes.

      Why not do a reset AND dabble around with Nigeria? Sure to give the old DeadEye’s tickerless system a run for the money.

      If only I could be certain this was the case. I do love imagining the possibilities.

      By the way, has anybody noticed how very, very quiet Liz Cheney has been about WikiLeaks?

      I love it when certain reliable guard dogs don’t bark; maybe more than one heart is getting a work-out.

  9. PeasantParty says:

    The US says they will investigate to keep another country from investigating them! We all know how the US investigates itself. How many times does Cheney have to publicly admit he did this and that, and all the other crap? Economic policy on a napkin, Energy policy in secret, War policy for personal gain, the list goes on and on.

    There will be no real investigation in the US, it is only a hold to others from doing it.

  10. msiddique says:

    One of the most despicable act of political cowardice by the Obama administration is its deliberate program to protect the war criminals such as Chaney and other neo-fascist thugs involved in planning and executing the war on Iraq, torture, exposing of people who disagreed with the lies they use do hoodwink the American people. I have contributed to his campaign, knocked on doors, made phone calls, etc., in the hope that this man would see beyond his nose and protect long term interest of this country by abandoning US’s arrogant disregard of international laws and the policies of the New American Century manifesto of the neo-fascist thugs that was imposed on the rest of the world to impose American hegemony on others. Nothing engenders more hatred of the America in the rest of the world than this posture, nothing helps Al Qaeda more to recruit gullible people than the ignorance driven arrogance of America’s disregard of the interest of other. I hope Nigerians actually pursue Chaney and he is caught and punished for his crimes against humanity, at least indirectly.

    • PeasantParty says:

      I simply don’t understand their determined desires for the One World Order stupidity. Do they think they will be in power or have anything of purpose after they effect that change on the world?

  11. darclay says:

    A great blog, the FCPA blog, has a series of articles summarizing the deferred prosecution and plea deals that the U.S. cut with the companies involved. This article has links to articles in the series that discuss the U.S. guilty plea of KBR in February 2009 ($402 million fine) and Halliburton ($177 million disgorgement); and deals made by Snamprogetti, ENI ($365mill) and Technip ($338 million). Those deals all came after a deal made by KBR’s former CEO, Jack Stanley.

    Wonder how much of these fines have been paid?

    • Mary says:

      Or how many special bonuses and no-bid contracts are offsetting them and … ;)

      This one is a complex mess, but it’s been interesting to watch it all play out. US claims to be able to get these huge fines from some of these corporations have a very strained jurisdictional basis, compared to Nigeria itself. If a Netherland sub of an Italian corp contracts with a UK lawyer to use a Gibralter company to bribe Nigerian officials – that gives the US a right a few hundred million in fines that are not going to be shared with Italy, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the UK etc. … how?

      Sounds as if the companies involved were pretty happy overall that the US was the biggest growler, bc paying off with OPM isn’t nearly as big a bite as going to jail in Nigeria.

      I’m not going to pretend to know what is really going on with such a complex situation, but the reason I pay attention to the 130 million, in addition to it being 130 million, is that it isn’t mentioned much in any of the US and UK based stories. They talk about convictions and indictments and sometimes mention 180 or so in bribes, but almost never say anything much about the 130 million that didn’t quite make it into any Nigerian hands. OTOH, the stories that do mention anything about it pretty much have a Nigerian nexus. So it certainly comes across as being something the US would just as soon not have the press talking about, and Nigeria would just as soon be making a public and noisey claim, if only they could get someone to hear them over the US growls.

      Once they hit the Cheney note in their yipes, though, it has to have caught the growly dog’s ear. Not that anyone is all that worried about turning Cheney over, it’s just that the optics are bad. After all, they polished the pig as much as they could to convert torturers into brave patriots who were acting in “good faith” to save us all and so had to be protected by the full force and thuggishness of the USG. Now adding on that it’s equally important to protect Cheney from consequences of bribing African officials for Halliburton – I’m guessing they’ll think 130 mill is a small price to pay for making taht go away.

  12. fatster says:

    This is fascinating, Mary. That you present such a convoluted mess in a remarkably coherent manner is rather amazing. Many thanks!

  13. onitgoes says:

    Thanks for the post and the background and connecting the dots. Typical.

    I sure won’t hold my breath for *anything* to happen to Cheney, and yeah: probably YOUR & MY tax dollars will be used for any potential “pay offs.”

    And finally: just a tip of the hat to a prior comment about how silent Liz Cheney has been lately, esp about Wikileaks. I had thought that, too, just recently. Interesting… sure Lizzy is holding her breath a bit. Would LOVE to think she’s quaking in her boots a bit, but probably not.

      • Cujo359 says:

        Looks to me like the Nigerians think they’ll be able to apply it to their unemployment benefits.

        Frankly, as long as Halliburton, et. al., don’t end up with it, I’ll consider the disposition of these funds a success.

  14. thatvisionthing says:

    I’m not good on mechanics, but after a while I kinda get the sense that the mechanics are just mumbo jumbo to divert attention away from the reality that money really isn’t real or mechanical anymore, is pretty much what the MOTU say it is and goes to whoever the MOTU want it to go.

    David Dayen has a post up now about the $700 billion in TARP really being a facade — the actual number apparently by today’s reckoning is $3.3 trillion that we just handed out to banks here and all over the world in exchange for worthless collateral, and now those recipients will buy Treasuries and we’ll pay interest to them for the favor. You’d think that’d be huge news, but the title of the post, Fed Denies Release of Underlying Collateral Data on Emergency Lending, focuses on the secondary fact that that’s meaningless info — apparently we wait for more substantiating data to come out next July. That is so astounding to me that I can’t drop my jaw far enough to encompass it. Then again, 0 comments so far, so maybe it’s not astonishing at all. It’s old hat — more of the same — law isn’t law, money isn’t money, crime is the glue that holds the MOTUs… and thus us… together.

    So $130 million — why aren’t we just seeing that as another backdoor chump change funding of some MOTU bank? Why are we even bothering at all? Nigeria is a shiny object, just like foreclosed deadbeat homeowners and lazy shiftless unemployed and high-living dispensible seniors. Glitter in the MOTU Matrix.

    Bernie Sanders: I intend to investigate whether these secret Fed loans, in some cases, turned out to be direct corporate welfare to big banks that used these loans not to reinvest in the economy but rather to lend back to the federal government at a higher rate of interest by purchasing Treasury Securities. Instead of using this money to reinvest in the productive economy, I suspect a large portion of these near-zero interest loans were used to buy Treasury Securities at a higher interest rate providing free money to some of the largest financial institutions in this country. That is something that we have got to closely examine.

    • bobschacht says:

      Dang, if Bernie keeps talking like that, I’m gonna become a Socialist. Unfortunately, Bernie does not belong to an organized Socialist Party, and the SPUSA is splintered from the nearly moribund Social Democrats USA, and the Democratic Socialists of America,

      …formed in 1982 by a merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) and the New American Movement (NAM). DSOC was the largest group to emerge from the splintering of the Socialist Party of America in 1973; two other Socialist Party factions went on to form Social Democrats USA and the Socialist Party USA.

      The guiding light of the DSA is Michael Harrington. However, they essentially constitute a caucus within the Democratic Party.

      Where is one to turn?

      Bob in AZ

  15. KenMuldrew says:

    SCTV had a similar news story regarding the former USSR:

    (wait for the first story).

    Quote: “It’s fun to step on a bug and squish it, but it’s no fun to wipe the mess off your shoe afterwards”.