Tapes show key witness in William Jefferson trial was unconcerned about FBI raids
by Bruce Alpert, The Times-Picayune
Friday June 19, 2009, 9:52 PM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- The day after FBI agents raided his home and offices, iGate CEO Vernon Jackson expressed no concern, according to transcripts of FBI wiretaps made public Friday by attorneys for former Rep. William Jefferson.
Agents had also swooped in on Jefferson's homes in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., revealing a probe that would eventually produce a 16-count public corruption indictment against the nine-term congressman.
"Wouldn't you get, um, affected?" Tony LeDimh, an executive from Siemens, asked Jackson on Aug. 4, 2005.
"Uh, no, " Jackson said. "And what do you mean, am I affected?"
He goes on to tell LeDimh, whose company at one time had a contract to manufacture some iGate telecommunications equipment, that he is "cooperating" with the investigation and expresses no concern he could be implicated.
Jefferson's attorneys, led by Robert Trout, say that runs counter to Jackson's testimony this week that he knew when he first signed a consulting agreement in 2001 with the ANJ Group, headed by Jefferson's wife, that he was making sham payments to get the congressman's help with business projects. Prosecutors have labeled the payments to ANJ as bribes. In a brief filed Friday, the defense attorneys are asking the judge to let them play excerpts of the tapes when their cross-examination of Jackson continues Monday.
The tapes, made by the government but not included in the prosecution's presentation, include other conversations that Jefferson's attorneys say raise questions about the truthfulness of Jackson's direct testimony, which began Tuesday and ended Thursday.
The defense attorneys say the recordings show that at a time Jackson says Jefferson was taking bribes to salvage a telecommunications deal for iGate in Nigeria, Jackson had already decided to pull out of the deal because he was frustrated with the major investor, Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody. At one point, Jackson refers to Mody as "a crazy person."
At the time, Mody was wearing a wire and, at times, a small camera to record conversations with Jefferson.
"I won't even talk to the lady, " Jackson tells one of his attorneys in a June 9, 2005, conversation. "She did not uh, do things that she said she was going to do and I said, f--- it. The project is terminated."
Labor secretary, Tauzin
Other tape excerpts that Jefferson's attorneys will ask Judge T.S. Ellis III to play during cross-examination include portions in which Jackson talks about moving ahead with other projects in Pakistan and Mexico that he describes as potentially more lucrative and facing fewer obstacles than the projects Jefferson was promoting in Africa.
In a July 16, 2005, discussion, Jackson and a man, identified only as Ruben, talk about getting a meeting with Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., then a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to promote his company's telecommunications projects. Solis is now President Barack Obama's secretary of labor.
"I told her that, you know, we were about providing access to minority communities and that we needed to make sure that the bill (a pending telecommunications measure) reflected those kind of changes, " Ruben said. "And she's on board and would ... love to meet with you to get a better sense of some of the issues."
A Labor Department spokesman, who declined to be identified because the issue deals with her service in Congress, said no meeting between Solis and Jackson ever occurred.
In the same conversation, Jackson tells Ruben that he used to have a "very close, um, uh, ally on Energy and Commerce, " apparently referring to the former chairman, Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay. It's worth noting, Jefferson's attorneys said, that Jackson makes no reference to Jefferson in this discussion, given that he told the jury this week that he believed his firm's future rested almost entirely on the New Orleans Democrat's efforts on his behalf.
Ken Johnson, spokesman for Tauzin, who is now head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, said Tauzin was impressed with iGate's technology. But any influence that Jackson had with Tauzin was strictly "in his mind, " Johnson said.
Jefferson's attorneys say the tapes, contrary to Jackson's testimony that Jefferson was plotting to take over his company, show the congressman working hard to try to free Jackson from huge financial debts.
Although Jackson doesn't seem worried about the August raids in the excerpt provided by Jefferson's defense team, the representative from Siemens expressed concern.
On the tape, LeDimh urges Jackson to "be careful because I believe you know" that ". . . they wrote to, uh (inaudible) Nigeria, that company, they also implicated him in there."
Jackson responds that "I remember that, " and goes on to tell LeDimh: "Don't worry. You know me. I -- it has to be aboveboard with me."
Siemens, according to a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing, admitted depositing $2.8 million into the Maryland bank account of Jennifer Abubakar, the wife of former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who the Justice Department says was the intended recipient of $100,000 in cash given Jefferson by Mody as part of an FBI sting. All but $10,000 of the money was found in Jefferson's freezer.
Elizabeth Cho, a Siemens' spokeswoman, declined to comment.
The judge has expressed a reluctance to let Jefferson's attorneys play tape excerpts not offered by the prosecution, but he said he would await a Justice Department response before deciding how to proceed. The trial resumes Monday.
Jefferson is accused of seeking and receiving bribes to promote business projects from iGate and other companies in West Africa. He has pleaded innocent.
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Bruce Alpert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.383.7861.