Nigerian TV executive says former Rep. William Jefferson sought payments
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 2:10 PM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- Former New Orleans Congressman William Jefferson sought a piece of a business deal in Africa that would have brought him up to $10 million over two years, a one-time Nigerian television executive testified today.
Dumebi Kachikwu, a part-owner of Nigeria Digital Television when Jefferson was trying to broker a deal with NDTV for the Kentucky-based iGate Inc. technology company, is a prosecution witness in the government's 16-count indictment of Jefferson on bribery, racketeering, conspiracy and other charges.
Kachickwu said the New Orleans Democrat first sought a share in the company or percentage of the revenue, but was told that was out of the question. Jefferson was then offered a deal in which he would get $5 for each of the converter boxes that iGate provided to unscramble cable-TV signals. Kachickwu said that would initially mean 200,000 boxes, but the business plan called for 1 million to 2 million boxes within the first two years. He said Jefferson found that acceptable.
But, in the afternoon, Kachikwu testified that Jefferson subsequently said he wanted more, and that Kachikwu's two partners went along. In a written document entered as an exhibit today, Jefferson represents that it was Kachikwu's partners who insisted on the more generous offering to him, but Kachikwu said, it was all Jefferson's idea.
Kachikwu said that his two partners ultimately traveled to the United States and delivered $100,000 to the congressman. The money was apparently in cash, as Kachikwu testified they had a little trouble getting thorugh customs.
This is not the $100,000 in cash, provided and marked by the FBI, that Lori Mody delivered to Jefferson on July 30, 2005, according to the proseuction, to be delivered as a bribe to Atiku Abubakar, then vice president of Nigeria. All but $10,000 of that money famously ended up in Jefferson's freezer when the FBI raided his home a few days later. The NDTV deal had fallen through long before then.
NDTV had partnered with iGate, but pulled out of the deal, sending a letter to Nigerian leaders accusing Jefferson of trying to grab shares in the company.
Kachickwu said he initially thought compensation for Jefferson was fair because he had brought all the parties together. But, he said he began to wonder if the congressman was trying to hide something when Jefferson asked him to form a company in Nigeria with his daughter or daughters to accept the money generated by converter boxes.
He testified that Jefferson said he could be of great help in getting the deal done because the then-president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, "owed him a favor." Kachikwu said Jefferson said he had been instrumental in getting Nigeria off a list of countries identified as a serious source of illegal drug trafficking.
Kachikwu also testified that Jefferson encouraged NDTV officials to pay consulting fees to Maureen Scurry, then an employee of the Export-Import Bank. He said Jefferson urged that the company "work with her on the side" because she could facilitate financing for their projects.
Scurry was indicted in February of accepting a bribe from the company.
According to the indictment, Scurry, the bank's former business development specialist for Africa, was introduced to a Nigerian businessman who wanted her help securing financial support for his plan to deploy a telecommunications project by a Kentucky firm that Jefferson was promoting.
The businessman, identified in Nigerian legal documents as Otunba Fasawe, chairman of NDTV, agreed to pay Scurry $173,500 for her help.
A wire transfer of $100,000 was sent to Scurry's personal bank account in Washington, D.C., in 2004, what the Justice Department calls a first installment.
In an interview with Nigerian law enforcement officials published in a government "corruption report, " Fasawe said the payment was made for humanitarian reasons: because Scurry's brother had cancer.