How Cheney's firm routed $132m to Nigeria via Tottenham lawyer

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The Independent Online

A lawyer, based in offices in a run-down part of north London, worked with three British executives from the US construc- tion group Halliburton to pay at least $132m (£73m) in "unjustified" fees to contacts in Nigeria.

A lawyer, based in offices in a run-down part of north London, worked with three British executives from the US construc- tion group Halliburton to pay at least $132m (£73m) in "unjustified" fees to contacts in Nigeria.

These payments, many of which occurred when Halliburton was being run by Dick Cheney, now the American Vice-President, helped a consortium including the US group to win a $12bn contract to build a gas terminal at Bonny Island in Nigeria.

In court documents submitted to a French corruption investigation, Halliburton has admitted it paid $132m to Jeffrey Tesler, a UK lawyer. Mr Tesler's firm, Kaye Tesler, is based on a run down high street in Tottenham, north London.

Mr Tesler would not return calls but his French solicitor admits Mr Tesler received the money, which he said was for advisory and other legitimate fees.

The construction of the Nigerian plant was carried out by a consortium called TSKJ, made up of Technip of France, Snamprogetti of Italy, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root and the Japan Gas Corporation. After an internal investigation, Halliburton submitted notes of meetings to the French judge showing that Mr Tesler was reappointed by the consortium in 1999 at Halliburton's insistence.

Richard Northmore, a sales manager for MW Kellogg, a Halliburton subsidiary based in Greenford, Middlesex, signed contracts with Mr Tesler for the consortium, according to testimony seen by The Independent on Sunday. Syed Nasser, MW Kellogg's legal director, also acted as counsel to the TSKJ consortium, approving Mr Tesler's role. Bhaskar Patel, a sales and marketing vice-president who works in the Leatherhead office of Kellogg Brown & Root, also worked with Mr Tesler. Mr Northmore and Mr Nasser referred inquiries to Halliburton in the US. Mr Patel, who is understood to be an Africa expert, did not return calls.

A Halliburton spokesman confirmed that staff at Kellogg had been in contact with Mr Tesler. "The members from TSKJ unanimously approved of Tesler," she said. "The appointment could have been blocked by one of the members refusing to sign the minutes, and clearly this did not happen."

Evidence given by Halliburton to the French inquiry reveals that between 1996 and the present day, it paid $132.3m to Mr Tesler, more than half of which came after 1999. A letter from French investigators to the Nigerian authorities, asking for co-operation in the case, says that Mr Tesler's commissions "appear completely unjustified".

For its part, Halliburton has fired one senior executive, Jack Stanley, who it said received improper payments from Mr Tesler. Mr Stanley had been appointed to his senior role at Halliburton by Mr Cheney when he was chief executive between 1995 and 2000.

Revelations about the central role of Halliburton in the deal may force the UK's Export Credit Guarantee Department to withdraw its support from a £133m loan made last year to MW Kellogg. ECGD said it supported the loan on the basis that it was a "subcontractor to the consortium and financial arrangements were not their responsibility", but it was main- taining a "watching brief" on the French investigation.

Susan Hawley of the Corner House, a development watchdog critical of the ECGD's attitude to corruption, said: "If the ECGD was serious about stopping corruption, it would by now have demanded a full explanation from MW Kellogg as to its involvement in this case, and conducted an audit of its books."

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