By Kingsley Omonobi
Following the move by the Buhari administration to investigate the $182 million Halliburton bribery scandal, it has been discovered that the $26.5 million (about N5.2 billion) plea bargain money received from the multinational oil servicing company was not paid into any of the Federal Government accounts.
A reliable security source, who disclosed this in Abuja, said the money paid by the oil servicing giant, in a bid to evade prosecution, may have been shared by three prominent Nigerians (names with-held).
The source said that consequent upon the sharing, the Federal Ministry of Justice organized what was described as kangaroo prosecution of a former Special Assistant to an erstwhile President before a law court but was discharged and acquitted. The prominent Nigerians said to be involved include a former anti-corruption chief and a former minister.
“The ploy was to use the former Special Assistant as scape goat with a view to causing diversion and allowing the big culprits to escape justice”, he stated.
Following the financial crunch facing the Buhari administration, US government officials were said to have recently informed the Nigerian government that over $142 million of the bribery scandal was still in their hands and some European nations but that the money would only be returned if all those involved in the scandal were prosecuted.
They reportedly based their argument on the fact that all those from the American side involved in the Halliburton bribery scam had been prosecuted and money recovered from them. The source disclosed that the search for the $26.5 million plea bargain money started when the team to re-investigate the case started dusting up the files and assembling the facts.
The plea bargain was facilitated by the former (CEO) of Halliburton, Mr. Mark Fish. Sunday Vanguard learnt that those involved in the plea bargain scandal are running from pillar to post to see how the money could be returned or try to suppress information about the money.
Mr. Jeffery Tessler, the UK based lawyer who handled the distribution of the bribe money to the persons indicted through Swiss accounts, was among those convicted in the US and sentenced to 21 years in prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges in 2012.
The scandal blew open following a bid by Halliburton to win a $6billion contract for the engineering design and construction of the Bonny Island Liquefied Natural Gas project. The project had since been completed.