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UK Court Won’t Block Telser Extradition

The Continental Center and KBR Tower (foreground) in downtown Houston. Photo by Blair McFarlainThe London lawyer accused by American authorities of helping KBR and its partners bribe Nigerian officials lost his battle against extradition yesterday.

The British High Court affirmed a decision to send Jeffrey Tesler, 62, a U.K. citizen, to Houston to answer criminal charges in federal court. He faces up to 55 years in prison and forfeiture of more than $132 million.

Tesler was indicted in February 2009. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate and ten counts of violating the FCPA. The DOJ alleges he was part of a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials in exchange for contracts worth $6 billion to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria.

His co-defendant, Wojciech Chodan, KBR’s former commercial vice president at a U.K. subsidiary, was extradited from Britain in December last year. He pleaded guilty in Houston federal court to conspiring to violate the FCPA.

Chodan’s sentencing is scheduled for February 22, 2011. He faces up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge. As part of his plea agreement, Chodan, 72, who’s also a U.K. citizen, agreed to forfeit $726,885.

KBR, Technip S.A., Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V., and JGC, a Japanese engineering and construction company, were part of a four-company joint venture known as TSKJ. It was awarded a series of contracts by Nigeria LNG Ltd. between 1995 and 2004 to build the Bonny Island facilities.

Chodan admitted that from 1994 through 2004, he and his co-conspirators agreed to bribe Nigerian government officials, including top-level executive branch officials, to win the contracts. Chodan recommended and agreed to hire two agents, including Tesler and a Japanese trading company, to pay the bribes.

The DOJ said the TSKJ joint venture paid $132 million to a Gibraltar corporation controlled by Tesler and more than $50 million to the Japanese trading company.

KBR pleaded guilty in February 2009 to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It paid a $402 million criminal fine and, with its former parent company Halliburton, $177 million in disgorgement.

KBR’s former CEO, Albert “Jack” Stanley, pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiring to violate the FCPA and to mail and wire fraud charges. He’s been cooperating with prosecutors and is free on bail, awaiting his final sentencing.

In July last year, Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. and its parent company ENI S.p.A of Italy, paid $365 million in criminal and civil penalties for Snamprogetti’s role in the TSKJ joint venture. A month earlier, Paris-based Technip resolved FCPA-related charges with the DOJ and SEC for $338 million — a $240 million criminal penalty and $98 million in disgorgement.

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