British lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler, faces extradition to United States over corruption charges

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jeffrey Tesler
By Michael Herman, Alex Spence

A British solicitor accused of paying $132 million in bribes to Nigerian government officials to secure gas contracts on behalf of multinational energy firms should be extradited to the United States, a judge said yesterday.

Jeffrey Tesler, 61, is wanted by authorities in Houston, Texas, where he faces prosecution on corruption and conspiracy charges that carry a maximum 55-year jail term. He denies all charges.

District Judge Caroline Tubbs, sitting at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, told Mr Tesler yesterday she was satisfied that the allegations were serious enough to justify extradition.

The order, which must be approved by the Home Secretary, comes in the same week as Ian Norris, a retired British businessman, flew to the US to answer charges of destroying evidence.

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, has three months to consider Mr Tesler's case although lawyers said that his approval was a formality. Mr Tesler can appeal against an extradition order by the Home Secretary.

Mr. Tesler, who works for a small legal practice in Tottenham, North London, is accused of acting as the middleman for an international conspiracy to funnel bribes to Nigerian officials. He is alleged to have been hired by a consortium bidding for a series of contracts worth $6 billion to build and maintain a gas plant at Bonny Island, off the Nigerian coast.

The consortium included Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a Texas-based group that was formerly part of Halliburton, which was controlled by Dick Cheney until he became US Vice-President in 2000. Last February, KBR and Halliburton paid $579 million to settle US criminal and regulatory charges relating to the Nigeria project.

The US claim that Mr. Tesler worked as an agent for the consortium between 1995 and 2004. Prosecutors are also seeking the extradition of another British resident, Wojciech Chodan, 71, a former consultant to KBR who is wanted on corruption charges.

Mr Tesler has contested the extradition. His lawyers claimed that it would breach his right to a family life and that access to a fair trial was compromised by the passage of time because the alleged crimes date back 15 years.


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