|Conspiracy figure in Rep. William Jefferson case took bribes, SEC says|
by Bruce Alpert, The
Thursday January 01, 2009, 2:50 PM
WASHINGTON -- One of four wives of a Nigerian politician who is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Justice Department's corruption case against Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, is herself accused by a federal regulatory agency of receiving $2.8 million in bribes from a German company.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Siemens AG of Munich has agreed to pay an $800 million fine for making 4,283 bribe payments totaling $1.4 billion to various government officials across the globe between 2001 and 2007. About $2.8 million was paid through a bank account in Potomac, Md., in the name of the wife of a former Nigerian vice president to assist four telecommunications projects that Siemens was pursuing in Nigeria, the SEC said.
The wife isn't named, but the SEC descriptions match biographical information for Jennifer Douglas Abubakar, who is married to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Jennifer Abubakar, a dual U.S.-Nigerian citizen, has a home in Potomac, which is near her Washington-based charitable foundation and American University, where she was a graduate student.
A spokesman for Atiku Abubakar denied that Siemens had paid bribes to Jennifer Abubakar.
"Atiku has equally confirmed ... that his wife, who is usually a very prudent and meticulous person, had not entered into any form of relationships with Siemens or contractors of whatever hue," Abubakar spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu told the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard this week. "She denied receiving any payments from Siemens or any contractors or businessmen covering the period before, and after her husband left public office."
There's no indication that Jefferson, who last month lost his bid for a 10th term in Congress, is linked to the SEC action. Still, connections exist between Siemens and one of the companies that plays a prominent role in the Justice Department's corruption case against him.
Siemens had a three-year contract to develop telecommunications projects with iGate Inc., the Kentucky company the Justice Department says was helped by Jefferson in return for bribes to a family owned company.
Two years ago, Siemens officials confirmed that Jefferson made arrangements to help a company executive through customs at a busy United States airport and that the company had hosted Jefferson and iGate president Vernon Jackson and their families at the 2004 U.S. Open.
But the company denied any improper relationship with either Jefferson or Jackson. It eventually ended its relationship with iGate after complaining that Jackson's didn't have enough financial backing to make their joint endeavors viable.
Jackson is serving a seven-year, three-month sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2006 to paying bribes through a company connected to Jefferson's family. He has agreed to be a government witness at Jefferson's upcoming trial.
Jefferson, who faces charges of bribery, conspiracy, racketeering and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, maintains his innocence.
Earlier this week, Jefferson's attorneys again sought help from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to get testimony from Jennifer Abubakar. The attorneys said they've been unable to serve her with a subpoena in Nigeria or at her Maryland home and have been told that she's living at an unknown location in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Jefferson's attorneys said Jennifer Abubakar, in testimony to a federal grand jury, denied that she and Jefferson had discussed funneling money to her husband. If repeated during trial, such testimony could aid in the congressman's defense.
Judge Ellis could schedule a trial date during the next court hearing on Jan. 15.
The indictment against Jefferson says he told a government informant that Abubakar wanted a $500,000 stake in iGate's Nigeria project. Jefferson was recorded by the FBI taking $100,000 in cash from the informant in 2005, which he implied would go to Abubakar. All but $10,000 was later found by the FBI in the freezer of his Washington home.
Both Jennifer Abubakar and her husband are listed by the Justice Department as unindicted co-conspirators in the Jefferson case.
Shehu, the Atiku Abubakar spokesman, said the former vice president is giving serious consideration to running in Nigeria's 2011 presidential race.
Bruce Alpert can be reached at email@example.com or 202.383.7861.