Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has delayed his trip to the United States despite being issued a visa “because he needs assurances”, his associates have told TheCable.
A family source had told TheCable that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) obtained his US visa on Thursday after which he flew to the UK.
TheCable learnt that there were plans for Atiku to visit the US before returning to Nigeria but he decided to “wait and watch” until he could secure assurances that the coast is clear.
He unexpectedly returned to the country on Saturday.
“Atiku wants to err on the side of caution,” one of his associates told TheCable.
He was named in bribery cases involving Congressman William Jefferson and Siemens, both of whom were convicted by the US courts over the indictments.
Atiku has, however, maintained that he was not involved in the bribery scandals.
Diplomatic sources earlier informed TheCable that if the US wanted to arrest Atiku, he would have been picked up in the UK since both countries have treaties to that effect.
But Atiku’s associates insist that he does not want to take any risky decisions that could hurt his political standing ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
Meanwhile, in an undated document seen by TheCable, Atiku once contracted an American law firm to help find out if he was still being investigated by the US authorities.
TheCable analysts believe the document was prepared before the 2011 presidential election.
Atiku would later lose the PDP primary election to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Parts of the communication from the firm read: “We have obtained considerable information from reliable sources close to the investigation, from defense counsel involved in the investigation, and from documentary materials we have been able to acquire. Unfortunately, the news is not good. We are able to state with a high degree of confidence that the client is presently the subject of an active criminal investigation by U.S. authorities.
“While at least part of the investigation (a portion involving alleged payments from the Siemens firm) appears to be managed, at least in part, by the U.S. Securities Enforcement Administration, the information we have collected indicates that the overall investigation is spearheaded by Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) specialists in the fraud section of the Department of Justice (“Main Justice”) and is much broader than the Siemens-related allegations.
“It is particularly unfortunate that the recently-promoted head of the relevant unit at Main Justice is Charles “Chuck” Duross, who was the lead Main Justice trial attorney in the Congressman William Jefferson trial.
“We believe that Mr. Duross was principally responsible for naming the client as an unindicted co-conspirator in that trial, and we know that he is firmly convinced of the client’s guilt under United States criminal laws. Multiple sources have informed us that U.S. counsel for the client’s family member J. made a direct approach to Mr. Duross earlier this year, and that Mr. Duross refused to provide any assurance that J. would not be indicted – Mr. Duross also apparently stated in that conversation that the client was a person “of interest” to the Department.”
The documents showed that the investigation of the presidential candidate was active and that requests had been sent from different quarters on his financial transactions.
“Collateral material we have obtained indicates that the criminal investigation of the client is ongoing, and that it is active,” the firm said.
“We have received information, believed to be credible, that over the past two years a series of so-called MLAT (mutual legal assistance treaty) requests have been sent by the U.S Department of Justice Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs, to various foreign governments seeking information about the client’s financial transactions.
“In addition to the information we have collected regarding a current, active investigation of the client’s finances, we should note that one of our sources believes that the client may be (the source cannot confirm it) the subject of an actual “sealed” (i.e. secret) criminal indictment pertaining to the Siemens payment made to the bank account of J. We will, of course, continue to investigate whether this is in fact the case, although you should be aware that the existence of a sealed indictment is notoriously difficult to determine.
“We do know, however, that as part of its cooperation arrangement with the U.S. government, Siemens has provided Federal prosecutors with cooperation on this issue, and it is safe to assume that United States prosecutors believe with a high degree of confidence that they have the information necessary to bring criminal charges against the client for a Siemens bribe payment, whether or not they have already sought a sealed indictment.”
Jennifer Douglas, one of Atiku’s wives who is an American citizen, is thought to be the “J” in the documents.
In a report released by the US senate permanent subcommittee on investigations, Atiku was accused of using offshore companies to siphon millions of dollars to Douglas.
The report said Douglas helped her husband to bring over $40 million into the US through wire transfers sent by offshore corporations to US bank accounts.
Atiku’s political opponents have been using the allegations against him.
Paul Ibe, Atiku’s spokesman, was yet to respond to questions on the law firm’s advisory as at the time of reporting.
On Saturday, he confirmed that Atiku had returned to Nigeria from the UK but was silent on the issuance of US visa to the PDP candidate.
By Malik Abdulganiy, The Cable