Friday, June 08, 2007
The Jefferson Saga: Atiku says "I was a victim of 419"
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said yesterday that he was a victim of a 419 scam in the controversial United States Congressman Williams Jeffer-son saga.
Atiku, who was reacting to THISDAY story on the US Grand Jury report on the congressman, said the report of the jury showed that he was an innocent public official who, in the discharge of his functions, was exposed to a conman who dropped his name to swindle unsuspecting businessmen.
Speaking through his campaign organisation in a statement issued in Abuja, the former vice president denied that he agreed to take Jefferson's bribe to influence any business transaction in Nigeria. He described the report as "untrue and mischievous".
But Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), and the President of West Africa Bar Association (WABA), Mr. Femi Falana, said it was clear from the indictment of Jefferson in the American court that Atiku "definitely" has a case to answer.
The Convener of United Action for Democracy (CUAD), Mr. Bamidele Aturu, and another lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, however disagreed with Fawehinmi and Falana, saying Nigerians should not jump into conclusion yet over the issue.
In the statement issued by his campaign organisation yesterday, the former vice president was also unhappy that the THISDAY report suggested that he would have been prosecuted in the US save for the fact that he was a foreign citizen.
He said the war against graft and related financial crimes was a borderless one, stating that he would have been prosecuted wherever he may be.
The former vice president said the story was a "doctored and falsely reported conclusions of the US Grand Jury Report."
"I have said for the umpteenth time that in my brief meeting with Congressman Jefferson, I neither solicited nor did the US lawmaker offer me any material inducement for any assistance in respect of his business dealings in Nigeria.
"The Grand Jury report cited by a national newspaper in its highly libelous publication yesterday contained only an allegation by Jefferson that I had agreed to a share of the profit from his communications business in return for some assistance. This is totally untrue.
"Congressman Jefferson has proved to be a conman who tried to use my name to milk his business partners of thousands of dollars he purportedly paid to Nigerian officials as bribes", Atiku said.
In his view, the report of the Jury clearly shows that he (Atiku) is an innocent public official who in the discharge of his functions was exposed to a conman who continuously dropped his name before unsuspecting businessmen to swindle them.
"In the Nigerian parlance, Atiku was a victim of a 419 scam whose name was dropped by the 419ner to swindle unsuspecting businessmen," he said.
Atiku said the story which he described as part of a sustained but vain attempt to smear his integrity "not only failed to take cognizance of the import of the 94-page report of the American Jury on the Jefferson saga, it was also a condemnable selective reporting that stands logic and evidence on its heads to satisfy the malicious intentions of its sponsors."
According to him, the report of the US Jury, states "on or about July 18, 2005, following the meeting with Nigerian official A, Defendant Jefferson and CW traveled from Potomac, Maryland, to Mclean Virginia where Defendant Jefferson, informed CW (co-operating witness), that, during his private meeting with Nigerian official A, Defendant Jefferson had offered, and Nigerian Official A had agreed to accept, a bribe in the form of a percentage of the profits generated by the Nigerian Joint Venture in exchange for Nigerian official A's official assistance in securing necessary approvals from NITEL."
He further explained that the conclusion of the jury was based on the taped conversation between Jefferson and the businessman he was persuading to part with money as bribe allegedly meant for him (Atiku).
He decried the omission of the second leg of Jefferson's claim "which hard evidence eventually proved Jefferson as dropping his name to swindle the businessman who was accompanied by FBI operatives disguised as his company."
"Congressman Jefferson had sought and collected $100,000 from the same 'businessman' on the pretext that he was taking it to Atiku Abubakar. He also reported to the businessman on tape on August 1, 2005 that he had given the $100,000 to Vice President Abubakar," he said.
That claim, Atiku continued, informed the search on the house of his wife on August 3, 2005 during which the money was not found. The former vice president, however, added that when FBI searched the house of Jefferson on August 3, 2005, $90,000 of the marked $100,000 was found secretly stashed in $10,000 parcels, wrapped in aluminium foil and hidden in the food freezer by Congressman Jefferson.
So, Mr Con-man Jefferson what was the marked money, and that which you already claimed had been passed on to Atiku, still doing in your possession?
I beg to disagree