British solicitor Jeffrey Tesler is the latest person to plead guilty in connection with the TSKJ consortium and the EPC contrats to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria. Mr. Tesler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA. He was indicted on eleven counts. U.S. v. Tesler, H-09-098 (S.D.Tx.).
In his plea agreement Mr. Tesler admitted that he served as an agent of the TSKJ consortium, formed in to secure business in relation to the Bonny Island project. He reported to Albert Stanley of Kellogg, Brown & Root, among others. Mr. Tesler also admitted that he controlled and beneficially owned Tri-Star Investment Ltd., a Gibraltar corporation used has a vehicle to enter into consulting contracts with, and receive payments from, the TSKJ consortium. Tri-Star entered into four consulting agreements with TSKJ providing, in substance, that it would assist the consortium in obtaining engineering, procurement and construction contracts valued at over $6 billion. The contracts were to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria.
To facilitate obtaining the contracts, according to the plea agreement, Messrs. Tesler and Stanley and the other consortium members believed it was necessary to bribe Nigerian government officials. Between 1995 and 2004 the consortium paid $132 million to Tri-Star to be used to pay bribes. TSKJ also agreed to pay millions of dollars to a global trading company based in Tokyo, Japan to pay bribes to lower level Nigerian government officials for assistance.
On November 30, 1994 Mr. Stanley and others met with the first top level executive branch official in Abuja, Nigeria. Subsequently, TSKJ entered into a consulting agreement with Tri-Star providing for the consortium to pay $60 million if the first contracts were awarded. Mr. Tesler negotiated the $60 million fee with the high level official of the Ministry of Petroleum according to the facts admitted in the plea agreement.
Additional meetings were conducted by Mr. Stanley and others with Nigerian government officials in February and March 1999 and November 2001. Following those meetings TSKJ agreed to pay $32.5 million and $51 million to Tri-Star in connections with subsequent contracts. Mr. Tesler admitted using portions of those funds to bribe Nigerian government officials.
As part of the plea arrangement Mr. Tesler agreed to forfeit $148,964,568.67 which is one of the largest FCPA forfeiture order against an individual. In connection with that undertaking Mr. Tesler agreed to forfeit the assets in twelve foreign bank accounts listed in the plea agreement. Mr. Tesler also acknowledged that the guideline sentence is ten years. He is now cooperating with the government. Sentencing is set for June 22, 1011.
The members of the TSKJ consortium are KBR, Technip S.A., Snamprogetti Netherlands BV and a Japanese engineering and construction company. Previously KBR pleaded guilty in connection with its role while Technip and Snamprogetti entered into deferred prosecution agreements (here). Mr. Stanley pleaded guilty to FCPA charges last fall and Wojciech Chodan, a co-defendant of Mr. Telser who was also extradited from the UK, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA in December 2010.