BBC August 28, 2005

US probes Nigeria vice-president

The US government says federal agents have raided the Maryland home of Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
The search took place on 3 August, but officials refused to confirm reports that it was linked to raids on homes belonging to a Lousianian congressman.

William Jefferson is being investigated over the financing of a high-tech company and his properties were searched on the same day.

There has been no comment on the case from Mr Abubakar.

Mr Jefferson, a Democrat who has served eight terms in the House of Representatives, has come under scrutiny as the FBI looks into an international telecommunications deal.

Investigators are interested in Mr Jefferson's links with Mr Abubakar and vice-president of Ghana, Aliu Mahama, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

According to the newspaper, Mr Jefferson visited Ghana in mid-July.

Mr Abubakar reportedly only uses his home in Potomac, Maryland for a couple of months each year.

His wife, Jennifer, is a doctoral student in international relations at American University in Washington.

U.S. Searched U.S. Home of Nigerian VP

The Associated Press
Saturday, August 27, 2005; 4:35 PM

WASHINGTON -- The government confirmed Saturday that the U.S. home of Nigeria's vice president had been searched as part of a federal investigation, which news reports have linked to a Louisiana congressman.

A State Department spokeswoman would not confirm when the search occurred, referring questions to the Justice Department. A Justice spokesman declined to comment.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans first reported that agents had searched the Potomac, Md., home of Vice President Atiku Abubakar on Aug. 3. On the same day, FBI agents searched the Washington and New Orleans homes of Rep. William Jefferson, an eight-term Democrat.

The State Department would not say whether the searches were linked.

"All inquiries regarding the search of the United States residence of Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar should be directed to the Department of Justice," spokeswoman Joanne Moore said. "We do not comment on ongoing federal law enforcement investigations."

Asked about the searches, Justice spokesman Charles Miller responded, "There's nothing I can say."

Moore said she could not immediately comment on how issues of diplomatic immunity related to the search of the U.S. home of a foreign elected official.

The searches of Jefferson's homes came amid questions about his financial dealings with a high-tech startup company.

The Times-Picayune has reported that investigators were looking into Jefferson's dealings with Abubakar and the vice president of Ghana.

Jefferson's spokeswoman, Melanie Roussell, said Saturday that the congressman had no comment.

Abubakar could not be reached for comment. A phone number for his residence was not listed. The Nigerian Embassy was not open.



Feds raided home of Nigerian official
They reportedly sought records on dealings of Rep. Jefferson

Saturday, August 27, 2005

By Bruce Alpert and Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON -- On the same day that federal agents executed search
warrants on the New Orleans and Washington, D.C., homes of U.S. Rep.
William Jefferson, the FBI also raided the Maryland residence of
Nigeria's vice president, seeking evidence of possible payments to
officials in that African nation.

A State Department official confirmed the Aug. 3 search of the
Potomac, Md., home of Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his
wife, Jennifer. The agency referred all questions about the raid to
the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
A source familiar with the investigation said subpoenas show agents
were looking for records showing whether Jefferson, D-New Orleans,
paid, offered to pay or authorized payments to officials in the
government of Nigeria or Ghana.

The subpoenas, described to The Times-Picayune, seek documents
related to Jefferson's dealings with Abubakar and the vice president
of Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama. Jefferson returned from a five-day
visit to Ghana in mid-July, about three weeks before the FBI raided
his homes.

The subpoenas focus in part on a telecommunications deal Jefferson
was trying to engineer in Nigeria over the past year, according to
documents and those familiar with details of the investigation.

Jefferson spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said the eight-term
congressman would continue to decline comment on the federal probe.
He has only said that he is cooperating with federal investigators.

It's not clear how Vice President Abubakar or his wife, a doctoral
student at American University in Washington, might be connected to
the telecommunications deal. A staffer at the Washington-based AIDS
foundation set up by Jennifer Abubakar said the couple are in
Nigeria. Efforts to reach them and the vice president of Ghana for
comment were unsuccessful.

Jefferson's attorney, Mike Fawer, has said he believes the FBI had
been conducting a sting operation against his client. Quoting
anonymous law enforcement sources, The Washington Post reported that
the operation had been in the works for a year and was investigating
whether Jefferson pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from
business deals. The Post reported that agents found a large amount of
cash in Jefferson's freezer.

Experts said that the U.S. Justice Department has been increasingly
focused in recent years on prosecuting cases under the 1977 Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act, which bars corporations or their agents from
paying, offering to pay or authorizing payment of money or anything
of value to further their business interests abroad.

Sources familiar with the telecommunications deal said that Jefferson
was attempting to smooth the way for iGate Corp., a small Kentucky
company, to introduce its high-speed broadband technology to
Nigeria's fast-growing telecommunications market.

Rare move

Legal experts said it is unusual, if not unprecedented, for FBI
agents to raid the home of an elected official from a foreign nation.
Foreign diplomats normally are given immunity from prosecution. There
have been some well-publicized cases in which American prosecutors
have been unable to pursue allegations of wrongdoing against
diplomats, ranging from failure to pay traffic tickets to alleged
sexual assaults.

"Sometimes diplomatic immunity can be used as a shield from
prosecution, but not as a shield from investigation," said Mariano-
Florentino Cuellar, an associate professor of international law at
Stanford University.

But the law isn't so straightforward for visiting foreign elected
officials. Usually, officials request and are given immunity covering
the time periods of their visits to the United States.

Immunity, however, likely would not be given to an official, even a
sitting vice president, for a private residence within the United
States, especially if he wasn't present at the time the material
listed in the warrant was being sought, according to an official
familiar with State Department guidelines on the subject. The
official said it is almost certain that the search got the approval
of top Justice and State Department officials given the "possible
effect on foreign relations" of such a search.

A neighbor said that Abubakar doesn't use the Potomac home more than
a couple of months a year. The sprawling colonial is in one of the
Washington area's most exclusive communities.

A major player

Abubakar, according to his official biography, was a successful
businessman in Nigeria before he was tapped in 1999 by the country's
current president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to be vice president. Abubakar
is considered a likely candidate for presidency in 2007 and has said
that if he decides to run it will be on a platform that centers on

His wife, who founded the Gede Foundation dedicated to reducing the
spread of AIDS in Nigeria, is a student in international relations.
She also is active in establishing an American University campus in
Yola, Nigeria, financed largely by her husband. It is expected to
open its doors in September.

Louis Goodman, dean of the School of International Service at
American University, said the vice president wanted to use his wealth
to "give something back to the Nigerian people."
. . . . . . .

Staff writers Gordon Russell and Rhonda Nabonne contributed to this

Bruce Alpert can be reached at or at (202)
383-7861. Bill Walsh can be reached at or at
(202) 383-7817.