Bribes-case solicitor is ordered to forfeit £90m

By Jessica Elgot, March 24, 2011

Solicitor Jeffrey Tesler has been ordered to forfeit £90 million and faces 10 years in prison after pleading guilty at a US court for helping to bribe Nigerian officials to get £4 billion in building contracts.

Mr Tesler, 63, from Hendon, who has joint Israeli and British nationality, tried to obtain contracts in natural gas facilities on behalf of Texan company Kellogg, Brown and Root.

Bribes were paid to influence the awarding of a £4bn contract to build a natural gas plant on Bonny Island in Nigeria.

Mr Tesler was arrested in London in 2009 and, in March, Home Secretary Theresa May agreed that he could be tried at a Houston federal court.

But he went to the High Court in London to try to avoid extradition to the US, on the grounds that the crimes did not take place there.

But Lord Justice Pill agreed to his extradition in January this year, saying the effects of the conspiracy "would have been felt in the US".

According to prosecutors, Mr Tesler admitted that from 1994 until June 2004, he and his co-conspirators agreed to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials, including top-level executive branch officials, to obtain and retain contracts.

US District Judge Keith Ellison released
Mr Tesler on a £30,000 bond and ordered him to stay in Houston until his sentencing on June 22.

The judge told him: "You seem an unlikely person to be here."

Mr Tesler responded:
"I agree with that assessment," adding that he also agreed with the judge's assumption that he had engaged in bribery "because everyone else was doing it".

Last updated: 12:56pm, March 24 2011