'Nigerian bribe' lawyer pleads guilty at US court

By Jessica Elgot, March 18, 2011
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British lawyer Jeffrey Tesler must forfeit £90m and faces up to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty at a US court of helping to bribe Nigerian officials to get £4bn in construction contracts.

Mr Tesler, 63, a solicitor from Hendon who has dual British and Israeli citizenship, helped bribe Nigerian officials in exchange for contracts in natural gas facilities on behalf of Texan company Kellogg, Brown and Root.

Bribes were paid to influence the awarding of a £4bn construction contract for 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 should stand trial at a Houston federal court.

He went to the High Court in London to try and avoid extradition to the US. His lawyers argued that the crimes did not take place in the UK or in the US. 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.

Judge Ellison told him: "You seem an unlikely person to be here."

Mr Tesler responded: "I agree with that assessment.”

Mr Tesler said he agreed with Judge Ellison’s assumption that he engaged in bribery “because everyone else was doing it.”

Last updated: 3:42pm, March 18 2011