THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday quizzed a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mike Aondoakaa (SAN), for about six hours in connection with the ongoing probe of the whereabouts of about $200 million fines paid by Halliburton and four other firms.
There were strong indications that Aondoakaa might be detained by the anti-graft agency.
The ex-AGF was taken into the interrogation room at about 2pm yesterday.
Aondoakaa’s invitation has increased the number of Senior Advocates of Nigeria under investigation on Halliburton settlement agreement and fines to five.
Those who have been interrogated by the EFCC are a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, J.B Daudu (SAN), Mr. E.C Ukala (SAN), Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), D.D. Dodo (SAN) and a top shot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Roland Ewubare.
The breakdown of the $200 million remittances by the five companies are as follows: Julius Berger ($35 million); Siemens (Euros 30 million); Snamprogetti ($30 million); Halliburton Energy Services ($32,500,000); and Japan Gasoline Corporation ($26, 500,000).
The EFCC had uncovered how $32.5 million (N13, 585,000,000) from the $200 million fines from Halliburton Energy Services was allegedly paid into a private account.
The whereabouts of the N13.5 billion cash was unknown as at the time of filing this report.
The search for the missing N13.5 billion has shifted to the United States (U.S.) as the EFCC was determined to locate the whereabouts of the fines.
Although Ewubare claimed that $20 million out of the $32.5 million had been remitted into a Federal Government account, the EFCC could not locate the said account.
According to a highly-placed source, Aondoakaa was being grilled because the settlement agreement was allegedly initiated when he was in office as the AGF.
The source said: “We have gone far in our investigation of the Halliburton scam. This is why we have invited Aondoaaka, who played a part in it.
“The ex-AGF has made useful statement in the last six hours. We may likely detain him to enable him give us a comprehensive brief.
“The interrogation team has asked the ex-AGF to explain how Ewubare, one of the lawyers involved in the Settlement Agreement with Halliburton, got a letter of authority to open an Escrow Account in personal name for the payment of the fines.”
It was learnt that Aondoakaa opened up to EFCC detectives on how the Halliburton scandal was brought to the notice of ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua during a trip to the U.S. for the UN General Assembly in September 2007.
A source added: “The ex-AGF admitted that he signed an agreement with the law firm of Madison Avenue Legal Resources (LLD) on September 24, 2007 relating to the Halliburton matter.
”Also, Andoakaa told investigators that Ewubare was chosen to be involved in the Halliburton agreement team because his curriculum vitae and exposure fitted the kind of solicitor we needed.
“He said he mandated Madison to prosecute among other related legal and professional handling of the case or to compromise and settle the claims or causes of action in any manner it deems fit.
“But he made it clear that during his tenure, he did “not receive directive to compromise or settle the matter on any terms.”
Aondoakaa said he never knew the kind of advice they gave his successor, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), relating to how to compromise the suit or even settle the case.
The source quoted the ex-minister as saying that he did not know how the settlement agreement was reached and how the lawyers engaged were paid.
On the controversial Escrow Account, the ex-minister said: “I do not and did not know how it can be verifiable.”
Yusuf ALI, The Nation