Anxiety grips PDP as €10m Siemens bribe probe opens

LESS than one week after Prince Vincent Ogbulafor threw in the towel as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, the party seems set for more days of anxiety. Ogbulafor quit to clear himself of fraud charges. Now, the Deputy National Chairman Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed is set for grilling by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the 10m euro Siemens bribe.

Mohammed is to be quizzed alongside other former ministers of Communication. 

Investigation by The Nation revealed that the EFCC is set to grill all those previously interrogated by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over the scandal. 

A source said: “We have inherited the Siemens file and all the initial suspects and others implicated in the bribery scam would surely be invited. 

“It is like starting afresh, but with what we have from the Munich Court and previous statements by some of the suspects, we should be able to conclude investigation within three weeks. 

“But all the suspects grilled in November 2007 would have to face the new six-man panel.”

The ICPC had in November 2007 invited some former Ministers of Communication, including Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, Dr. Bello Mohammed, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Prof. Jibril Aminu and others for questioning.

ICPC, in a statement signed by Mr. Folu Olamiti, the Resident Consultant, Media and Events, disclosed that investigation had begun on the allegation that some government officials got hefty bribes from the German company.

The new move to probe the alleged bribery has caused disquiet in the PDP.

A party source said: “Once the investigation of the Deputy National Chairman begins, the party will be thrown into disarray because some members will start asking him to step aside.

“We were all downcast immediately we heard about a fresh enquiry into the Siemens bribery scandal. Our Deputy National Chairman has always said that he was not involved in any way in the scam, but what if political mischief is behind all this palaver.

“Do not forget that the Deputy National Chairman has always insisted that presidency must remain in the North in 2011. I think he must have stepped on toes with that statement. Some people also regarded him as a member of the late Yar’Adua’s cabal.

“Some of us are suspecting that the reopening of the case may be an attempt to sack the entire National Working Committee of the PDP through frivolous allegations.”

EFCC chair Mrs Farida Waziri yesterday raised a six-man panel to probe the scandal.

The panel has three weeks to complete its assignment and turn in its findings.

The panel was inaugurated following fresh evidence from Munich.

A source in the EFCC said: “We now have a new six-man panel handling investigation into the Siemens scam based on fresh clues.

“Members of the panel are crack operatives who could complete the assignment within the time frame.

“The panel is at liberty to retrieve documents from the Munich Court and interrogate those earlier implicated in the scam and others yet to be interrogated.

“We are set to fulfill our own part of the investigation into the scandal. Since Germany has taken action against Siemens’ officials, Nigeria has no basis for not acting on the scam.”

It was learnt that invitations were sent out to some ex-ministers barely two hours after the inauguration of the panel.

When contacted, the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi, said: “I am aware EFCC is still investigating the matter but I may not be able to give specific details.”

Siemens was involved in about 1.3b euro bribery payments in some countries between 2001 and 2004.

But, of the 1.3b euro payments, 10m euro was given to some Nigerian government officials during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Based on the admission of guilt, Siemens was fined 201m euros ($248m) by a Munich court on October 4, 2007

Also on April 21, 2010, a Munich court found two former Siemens managers guilty of breach of trust and abetting bribery for their roles in Nigeria

Michael Kutschenreuter, a former financial head of its telecoms unit, was placed on probation for two years and fined 160,000 euros ($215,300, a second defendant, the former head of Accounting at Siemens’ telecoms unit, was placed on probation for 1-1/2 years and fined 40,000 euros.

It was, however, gathered that the evidence from the latest trial of the two ex-Siemens managers indicated complicity of some top government officials.

Based on the initial exposure of the scam, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, on November 21, 2007 directed the ICPC to probe the deal.

Yar’Adua issued the order in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he was attending a summit of the OPEC.

The Nation had about three weeks ago reported a former Minister as threatening to blow the lid on the E10m Siemens scandal, if pushed to the wall.

It was learnt that the ex-minister made the threat, following fresh moves to dent his image by some political forces.

It was gathered that the former Minister had told a gathering of some politicians that he would not allow anyone to drag his name in the mud.

A source, who was at the meeting in Abuja, said: “The ex-Minister complained about attempts to blackmail him by some politicians based on the Siemens scandal. 

“He disclosed that he has all his records intact on the Siemens contract and explained why he was not involved in the bribery scam.”