'Nigeria 'bribe' lawyer loses extradition-appeal

By James Brewster, January 20, 2011

A British solicitor has failed in a High Court bid to block his extradition to the United States where he faces charges of aiding and abetting an enormous corruption plot.

Jeffrey Tesler, 62, is accused by the American authorities of involvement in an international conspiracy to channel bribes to senior officials in Nigeria.

Mr Tesler, who works for a legal practice in Tottenham, north London, argued that the alleged conduct complained of did not occur in America, and there were “insufficiently substantial links” between it and the US to legally justify extradition.

Two judges sitting at London’s High Court heard it is alleged that bribes were paid from a 132 million dollar (£88.4m) slush fund to influence the awarding of a six billion dollar (£4bn) construction contract for a natural gas plant on Bonny Island in Nigeria.

Mr Tesler, who has lived in north London for over 50 years, is accused of acting as the middleman in the conspiracy, said to have occurred between 1994 and 2004.

He was arrested at the request of the US government after a grand jury indictment was filed at a US district court in Houston, Texas, in February 2009.

Last March, District judge Caroline Tubbs, sitting at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, decided Mr Tesler’s extradition could go ahead, and two months later Home Secretary Theresa May ordered his removal.

Hugo Keith QC, for Mr Tesler - who has dual British-Israeli nationality - told the High Court: “In essence this case is concerned with an allegation that a non-US national and non-US resident conspired to bribe officials in a third party state, Nigeria.

“The conduct and alleged criminality, at its heart, is extra-territorial and does not concern bribery in America, nor in the UK.”

However, dismissing Mr Tesler's challenge today, Lord Justice Pill said the allegations he faces have "a strong United States connection" and the effects of the alleged conspiracy "were intended to be felt there".

The judge, sitting with Mr Justice Roderick Evans, also dismissed arguments that so much time had passed since the alleged conspiracy that it was impossible for Mr Tesler to be given a fair trial in America.

Last updated: 2:02pm, January 20 2011