The London lawyer accused by the U.S. of being a middleman in KBR’s bribery of Nigerian officials appeared in court last week to fight extradition. Jeffrey Tesler, 61, a U.K. citizen, was indicted in February by a federal grand jury in Houston. He was charged with one count of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and ten substantive FCPA offenses. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 55 years in prison. U.K. police, acting at the request of U.S. authorities, arrested Tesler in March.
According to a Press Association report, Tesler argued in the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court that his case is already under investigation by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office and shouldn’t be duplicated by American prosecutors.
Tesler’s lawyer, Bill Clegg QC, also said Tesler’s case isn’t linked to the U.S. “No person who was alleged to have received a bribe was promised a bribe in the U.S.A. No money to pay any bribes originated from any U.S. bank account. Mr Tesler, who it is alleged arranged the bribes, had never visited the U.S. in relation to the alleged conspiracy.” The alleged bribes, Clegg said, were handled by a Gibraltar company and paid through Swiss bank accounts.
The U.S. indictment charged Tesler with using his Gibraltar company, Tri-Star Investments, to funnel about $132 million in bribes to Nigerian officials. The payments were intended to secure contracts worth more than $6 billion to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Nigeria’s Bonny Island. The DOJ said Tesler was acting for a joint venture known as TSKJ, equally owned by KBR, Technip, SA of France, Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. (a subsidiary of Saipem SpA of Italy) and JGC of Japan.
The Crown’s lawyer, David Perry QC, said U.S.-based companies were involved and money had been channelled through U.S. bank accounts. According to a report in the Guardian, Perry said the allegations against Tesler could be criminal offenses “in Britain as well as the U.S., so extradition could take place under normal legal rules.”
In the indictment, the U.S. made this claim of jurisdiction:
At all times relevant to this Indictment, Tesler was an “agent” of an “issuer” within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd- 1, an “agent” of a “domestic concern” within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-2, and an “agent” of a “person” within the meaning of the FCPA, Title 15, United States Code, Section 78dd-3.
The London court continued Tesler’s extradiction hearing.
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Down But Not Out. Former congressman William Jefferson, sentenced last month to 13 years in prison for corruption and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, managed to file his notice of appeal on time. It was touch-and-go after Jefferson, 62, filed for bankruptcy in August, saying he owes his criminal defense lawyers more than $5.7 million. But two of the lawyers are sticking with him.
The Times Picayune reported that attorneys Robert Trout and Amy Jackson received approval last week from the trial judge, T.S. Ellis III, for the court to pay Jefferson’s legal fees for the appeal. The lawyers won’t get their full rates but a lower amount equivalent to court-appointed public defenders. Ellis also approved their request for the court to pay for a transcript of the six-week trial, probably about $26,000.
Jefferson is free on bail pending his appeal. It’s expected to take at least a year. Judge Ellis said he released Jefferson because his defense raised an argument that’s untested in the appellate courts. Jefferson says he was acting as a private citizen, while a corruption statute he was convicted under applies only to public acts by elected officials. The judge also said he regretted not making the jury’s verdict form more specific. (See our post here.)
Jefferson was convicted on 11 charges — conspiracy, soliciting and taking bribes, depriving citizens of honest services, money laundering and racketeering. He was acquitted of five charges, including Count 11 of the indictment — the only substantive FCPA charge he faced.