Who is Abu Shuaibu?
That is a question reporters from PREMIUM TIMES and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have battled for months to unravel. They haven’t succeeded.
The man’s name keeps popping up like mushrooms in the leaked records from HSBC, a huge global bank based in London, which has now been exposed for its role in acting as conduit for bribes and other illicit businesses.
Just plug in Jeffrey Tesler into the data, obtained by the French newspaper Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and Mr. Shuaibu’s name will rush to the surface.
Mr. Tesler is the U.K. lawyer, who used a network of secretive banks and offshore tax havens to funnel $182 million in bribes to top Nigerian officials in exchange for a $6 billion contract to build Nigeria’s liquefied natural gas company.
The leaked file show strong financial ties between Mr. Tesler and Mr. Shuaibu, and suggested both, along with other Nigerian individuals, corporations and at least a political party, may have worked together while the U.K. lawyer was engaged in the infamous bribery scheme.
The HSBC files identify Mr. Shuaibu, along with retired General Chris Garuba (a former governor of Bauchi State, former Commandant of the National War College, and former Commander of UN forces in Angola) and his wife Rita, as HSBC clients.
Their names are listed along with Mr. Tesler’s in an account named Bridlington Enterprises Limited, a Gibraltar-based shell company for which Mr. Tesler acted as attorney.
The records show that the account, for which Mr. Shuaibu was identified as beneficial owner, was opened the year before Mr. Tesler sent his first bribe payment to Switzerland, although the files do not show that Mr. Tesler transferred money into the Bridlington account, which held as much as $367,547 in 2006 or 2007.
But while Messrs Tesler, Chris and Rita Garuba are well known, very little is known about Mr. Shuaibu, although bank documents identify him as a real estate dealer and consistently gave his address as P.O. Box 53322, Ikoyi WAN-Lagos.
Yet it was the 65-year-old who effectively ran Bridlington’s accounts, repeatedly visiting HSBC in Switzerland, and making several withdrawals in cash. On one occasion – on November 11, 2005 – he visited the bank to request a transfer of 600,000 U.S. dollars. It is not clear to whom the money was sent.
The leaked files have provided fresh insight into Nigerians who worked with or had link with Mr. Tesler while he wired bribes to Nigerian officials.
Investigators in Nigeria and the United States, who investigated what is now infamously known as the Halliburton bribery scam, were unable to identify Mr. Shuaibu, the Garubas and another individual, Andrew Agom (a senior government official and chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, (who was killed in an attack on a motorcade), as business associates of Mr. Tesler.
But the HSBC files have clearly established the financial links between the individuals.
However, our efforts in the past months to track down Mr. Shuaibu or establish his real identity have so far been unsuccessful. The Abu Shuaibus we ended up identifying and contacting turned out to be different from that of Mr. Tesler’s record.
The Garubas, who could have provided a clue – since they shared ownership of Bridlington with him – did not respond to requests for comments by ICIJ and PREMIUM TIMES.
At 6.25p.m. on Wednesday, February 11, Rita, who runs the Abuja-based law firm, Temple Chambers, answered the phone but abruptly terminated the call after listening to our enquiry. She did not answer subsequent calls.
Mr. Tesler too did not respond to ICIJ’s requests for comment.
Mr. Tesler was sentenced to 21 months in prison and he forfeited $149 million from his Swiss accounts to the U.S. government for serving as the go-between for bribes paid to secure contracts for KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary, and the other consortium members, the Japanese firm JGC Corporation, Paris-based Technip, as well as Italy’s ENI S.p.A. and its Dutch subsidiary Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V.
The forfeited money is still to be paid.
Between 2009 and 2011, the consortium members paid penalties totaling more than $1.5 billion for their role in the bribery scheme. Two KBR officials who had worked with Mr. Tesler, Wojciech Chodan and Albert (Jack) Stanley, KBR’s former chairman and CEO, were sentenced to one year of probation and 30 months in prison, respectively.
Mr. Cheney had been chairman and chief executive of Halliburton, the parent company of KBR, for five years — from 1995 to 2000 — before becoming U.S. vice-president in 2001.
Mr. Cheney’s lawyer has asserted repeatedly that his client was not involved. “The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated that joint venture extensively and found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton,” attorney Terrence O’Donnell wrote in a 2010 statement to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Tesler, now 66, has served his sentence and returned to England, where he told authorities he would “spend the last few years, which God may graciously grant me, to seek forgiveness.”
In Nigeria, anti-corruption campaigners continue to call on authorities to identify and prosecute Nigerian citizens involved in the scandal. While never publicly released, a 2010 Nigerian government document reportedly included three Nigerian presidents, a vice-president, a minister, intelligence chiefs and corporate titans in a list of bribery beneficiaries. The report did not name the Garubas, and Messrs Agom and Shuaibu.
“In terms of the personalities and the amount of money involved, it is probably the biggest scandal in Nigeria’s history,” Dauda Garuba, Nigeria coordinator at the Natural Resource Governance Institute, said in an interview with ICIJ. (Dauda Garuba has no connection to the Garuba family in the HSBC files.)
“But although we’ve seen the indictment and conviction of foreign companies and their top executives in Europe and America,” Mr. Garuba said, “Nigeria’s own government has not taken action in the very country in which the corruption took place.”
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Contributors to this story: Will Fitzgibbon