A few days ago, I noted a joint ProPublica/New York Times story about a massive international bribery scandal involving German engineering giant Siemens. The company reportedly had an “annual bribery budget of about $40 million to $50 million” that it used to at “cozy up to corrupt government officials worldwide” and win contracts.
Now ProPublica has asked for help identifying some of the alleged recipients of the bribes who are described but not named in the SEC complaint. One of those people appears to be Jennifer Atiku-Abubakar, who is tied to the scandal involving the former Louisiana congressman William Jefferson and is also a donor to the Republican Party. But I want to emphasize that I have no way of knowing whether the charges made in the complaint about her are accurate.
Here’s the deal. The SEC complaint says Siemens paid millions in bribes to win $130 million in telecommunications contract in Nigeria. The recipients were “likely” a former president and vice president of Nigeria, and the “Wife of a former Nigerian vice president, a dual U.S.-Nigerian citizen who lived in the United States.”
Here’s an excerpt from the SEC complaint:
In the four telecommunications projects, approximately $2.8 million of the
bribe payments was routed through a bank account in Potomac, Maryland, in the name of
the wife of a former Nigerian Vice President. The Vice President’s wife, a dual U.S. – Nigerian citizen living in the United States, served as the representative of a business
consultant that entered into fictitious business consultant agreements to perform “supply,
installation, and commissioning” services but did no actual work for Siemens. The
purpose of these payment s was to bribe government officials.
It seems clear from public accounts that the person in question is Jennifer Atiku-Abubakar. According to this Washington Post story, she is the wife of Atiku Abubakar, the very controversial former vice president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. “Abubakar, a wealthy businessman… divides his time between his homeland and Potomac, Md., where he and one of his four wives maintain a $2.2 million mansion,” the story says. It also says that his wife Jennifer Atiku-Abubakar is a registered Democrat, but “she has made political donations including $25,000 to the Republican National Committee.”
The story, and numerous other published accounts, describe a key meeting between Abubakar and Jefferson at the former’s Potomac mansion, which was monitored by the FBI.
And this story from earlier this year, which identifies Atiku’s wife as an American citizen, says that the government’s 16-count indictment against Jefferson charged “the Louisiana Congressman with conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to Atiku Abubakar to ensure the success of a telecommunications venture in Nigeria.” It says the indictment also identified his wife Jennifer as one of the co-conspirators in the case.