TranscriptCNN International interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues

FBI raided home of Nigeria's VP Atiku in Potomac,USA
They reportedly sought records on business dealings ofLouisiana Rep. Jefferson

By Bruce Alpert and Bill Walsh, The Times Picayune of New Orleans(Washington bureau)

Special to,USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
CLASSmagazine, TheBlack Business JournalandIgboEvents

WASHINGTON -- On the same day that federal agents executed searchwarrants on the New Orleans and Washington, D.C., homes of U.S. Rep.William Jefferson, the FBI also raided the Maryland residence ofNigeria'svice president, seeking evidence of possible payments to officials inthat African nation.

A State Department official confirmed the Aug. 3 search of thePotomac, Md., home of Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and hiswife, Jennifer. The agency referred all questions about the raid tothe Justice Department, which declined to comment.

A source familiar with the investigation said subpoenas showagents were looking for records showing whether Jefferson, D-NewOrleans, paid, offered to pay or authorized payments to officials inthe government of Nigeria or Ghana.

The subpoenas, described to The Times-Picayune, seek documentsrelated to Jefferson's dealings with Abubakar and the vice presidentof Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama. Jefferson returned from a five-dayvisit to Ghana in mid-July, about three weeks before the FBI raidedhis homes.

The subpoenas focus in part on a telecommunications deal Jeffersonwas trying to engineer in Nigeria over the past year, according todocuments and those familiar with details of the investigation.

Jefferson spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said the eight-termcongressman would continue to decline comment on the federal probe.He has only said that he is cooperating with federalinvestigators.

It's not clear how Vice President Abubakar or his wife, a doctoralstudent at American University in Washington, might be connected tothe telecommunications deal. A staffer at the Washington-based AIDSfoundation set up by Jennifer Abubakar said the couple are inNigeria. Efforts to reach them and the vice president of Ghana forcomment were unsuccessful.

Jefferson's attorney, Mike Fawer, has said he believes the FBI hadbeen conducting a sting operation against his client. Quotinganonymous law enforcement sources, The Washington Post reported thatthe operation had been in the works for a year and was investigatingwhether Jefferson pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars frombusiness deals. The Post reported that agents found a large amount ofcash in Jefferson's freezer.

Experts said that the U.S. Justice Department has beenincreasingly focused in recent years on prosecuting cases under the1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars corporations or theiragents from paying, offering to pay or authorizing payment of moneyor anything of value to further their business interestsabroad.

Sources familiar with the telecommunications deal said thatJefferson was attempting to smooth the way for iGate Corp., a smallKentucky company, to introduce its high-speed broadband technology toNigeria's fast-growing telecommunications market.

Rare move

Legal experts said it is unusual, if not unprecedented, for FBIagents to raid the home of an elected official from a foreign nation.Foreign diplomats normally are given immunity from prosecution. Therehave been some well-publicized cases in which American prosecutorshave been unable to pursue allegations of wrongdoing againstdiplomats, ranging from failure to pay traffic tickets to allegedsexual assaults.

"Sometimes diplomatic immunity can be used as a shield fromprosecution, but not as a shield from investigation," saidMariano-Florentino Cuellar, an associate professor of internationallaw at Stanford University.

But the law isn't so straightforward for visiting foreign electedofficials. Usually, officials request and are given immunity coveringthe time periods of their visits to the United States.

Immunity, however, likely would not be given to an official, evena sitting vice president, for a private residence within the UnitedStates, especially if he wasn't present at the time the materiallisted in the warrant was being sought, according to an officialfamiliar with State Department guidelines on the subject. Theofficial said it is almost certain that the search got the approvalof top Justice and State Department officials given the "possibleeffect on foreign relations" of such a search.

A neighbor said that Abubakar doesn't use the Potomac home morethan a couple of months a year. The sprawling colonial is in one ofthe Washington area's most exclusive communities.

A major player

Abubakar, according to his official biography, was a successfulbusinessman in Nigeria before he was tapped in 1999 by the country'scurrent president, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, to be vicepresident. Abubakar is considered a likely candidate for presidencyin 2007 and has said that if he decides to run it will be on aplatform that centers on anti-corruption.

His U.S.-based wife, who founded the Gede Foundation dedicated toreducing the spread of AIDS in Nigeria, is a student in internationalrelations. She also is active in establishing an American Universitycampus in Yola, Nigeria, financed largely by her husband. It isexpected to open its doors in September.

Louis Goodman, dean of the School of International Service atAmerican University, said the vice president wanted to use his wealthto "give something back to the Nigerian people."

(Staff writers Gordon Russell and Rhonda Nabonne contributed tothis report)



2006 CALENDAR, FRIDAY May 5, AND SATURDAY MAY 6, 2006: CLASS magazine, USAfrica and (characterized by The New York Times as the largest and most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks), will hold the USAfrica 14th internationally-acclaimed 2006 BEST OF AFRICA awards dinner in honor of African professionals and our annual Mothers' Day Honors on FRIDAY MAY 5 and on SATURDAY MAY 6, 2006. Nominate some African professionals and community builders. E-mail: It will be an invitation-only event. The open annual international townhall meeting, USAfrica Forum, will hold on Friday May 5, 2006. USAfrica was founded in May 1992, in Houston, Texas by television broadcaster and multimedia media executive Chido Nwangwu. Contact USAfrica/CLASS event manager Alverna Johnson and Chuck Obazei at 713-270-5500. or 832-45-CHIDO (24436) - E-mail:

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