A newly released affidavit filed by FBI agents investigating Rep. William Jefferson offers fresh details into the bribery probe of the Louisiana Democrat, which began after an investor in a Nigerian telecommunications deal grew concerned that she was being ripped off for millions of dollars by Jefferson and his alleged co-conspirators.
At one point, Jefferson told the investor — identified in media reports as Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody — that on on July 31, 2005, he had given the vice president of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, $100,000 in bribe money she had provided to the Congressman, the affidavit says.
In fact, most of that money — $90,000 — was found in Jefferson’s refrigerator when the FBI searched his Virginia home several days later, according to Justice Department documents. FBI agents had secretly videotaped Mody giving Jefferson the $100,000 in cash at a dinner the night before he was to pass it to Abubakar.
Jefferson and Mody had, in fact, discussed paying Abubakar as much as $500,000, according to the affidavit. That amount was part of a $1 million pool of funds that the Louisiana Democrat wanted to use to help pave the way for business deals in Nigeria and Ghana.
And in a previously undisclosed twist, a FBI special agent actually drove Jefferson and Mody to the home of Jennifer Douglas, Abubakar’s wife, in Potomac, Md., to meet with Abubakar on July 18, 2005. The affidavit does not provide information on how Mody introduced the agent to Jefferson, or what identity the agent was operating under.
At that meeting, the affidavit says, Abubakar agreed to help win approval for the Nigeria venture in return for a share of the profits received by a Nigerian firm set up by Mody and a partner in Nigeria. Those profits were touted to be as much as $200 million annually if the telecom deal went through. Jefferson secretly sought a large portion of those profits as well — money which would be paid into a company controlled by his family.
Jefferson is the focus of a wide-ranging corruption probe that is looking into allegations of fraud, bribery and conspiracy to bribe foreign officials. A former Jefferson aide, Brett Pfeffer, and a Kentucky businessman, Vernon Jackson, already have pleaded guilty in the case and are cooperating with federal investigators. So far, Jefferson himself has not been charged in the probe.
Mody pumped roughly $6.7 million into business deals being promoted by Jefferson and Pfeffer, according to the affidavit. After she went to the FBI in March 2005 with her suspicions of fraud being perpetrated by Jefferson, Jackson and Pfeffer, Mody was told that she would be reimbursed for any further payments to the Louisiana Democrat, according to the new documents.
No Member or Senator has ever been charged with bribing a foreigner, said both the House and Senate historians, although lawmakers have been convicted of accepting such illegal payments.
The affidavit released on Monday night originally was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on Aug. 2.
At that time, FBI agents were seeking to obtain a search warrant covering Douglas’ home, believing they would find evidence of complicated telecom deal involving Abubakar and Jefferson, a joint venture with a Nigerian telecom company funded by Mody, and other information. They also believed that they might find the $100,000 in alleged bribe money. At the time, the affidavit was sealed.
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