Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why is It Always Nigeria?

… a friend asked me after I explained the Jeb Bush/MWI/Nigeria connection. Good question.

The Jeb Bush/MWI/Nigeria connection:

Jeb Bush's former business partner, prominent Republican contributor J. David Eller, twice flew suitcases of cash to offshore tax havens to hide his assets, the U.S. Justice Department contends in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says Eller's MWI Corp., a Deerfield Beach water pump manufacturer, improperly used more than one-third of a $74.3-million U.S. loan to pay a Nigerian agent for the company. In turn, that agent and other company officials paid Nigerian government officials involved in buying MWI's pumps, the lawsuit says.

***

The governor has said he made $648,250 from Bush-El, the company he and Eller formed in 1988 to promote MWI products abroad. He has repeatedly said, however, that none of that came from the Nigerian sales. To avoid possible conflicts of interest since his father was in the White House, he has said, he accepted no commissions on deals financed through U.S. agencies. Nor did he contact any government officials about the loans.

Twice while his father was in the White House, however, Jeb Bush visited Nigeria on behalf of MWI. In 1989, he was treated to a parade of 1,300 horses and tens of thousands of people lined the road to welcome the American president's son.
Hmm… Nigeria… Where have we heard about Nigeria and alleged corruption before?

Oh, yeah. William Jefferson:
A congressman under investigation for bribery was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded, according to a court document released Sunday. Agents later found the cash hidden in his freezer.

***

The affidavit says Jefferson is caught on videotape at the Ritz-Carlton as he takes a reddish-brown briefcase from the trunk of the informant's car, slips it into a cloth bag, puts the bag into his 1990 Lincoln Town Car and drives away.

The $100 bills in the suitcase had the same serial numbers as those found in Jefferson's freezer.

While the name of the intended recipient of the $100,000 is blacked out, other details in the affidavit indicate he is Abubakar Atiku, Nigeria's vice president. He owns a home in Potomac, Md., that authorities have searched as part of the Jefferson investigation.
Hmm… Nigerian Vice President Abubakar Atiku… I saw his name while playing Spocko’s Brain’s game of "pay attention to the people":
Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar has praised U.S. business for standing by his country during its darkest days of military dictatorship and economic mismanagement.

***

CCA President Steve Hayes introduced Abubakar at the reception, which included representatives from such firms as Africa One Ltd, ExxonMobil, Manchester Trade Ltd, and Conoco Inc. He said, "The large crowd we have here tonight to honor Vice President Abubakar reflects the U.S. business community’s strong interest in the Nigerian marketplace."

***

William Bucknam, Vice President and General Counsel of Moving Waters Industries (MWI) corporation, a CCA member firm headquartered in Florida, told a Washington File reporter that his company has been selling water pumps in Nigeria for years. As head of a foundation that pushed for passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) last year, Bucknam said, "We have good prospects and look forward to a lot of business" in Nigeria.
Yes, we’ve heard all about MWI selling pumps to Nigeria:
The U.S. Justice Department sued MWI in 2002, accusing it of fraudulently helping Nigeria obtain $74 million in taxpayer-backed loans for overpriced and unnecessary water-pump equipment. The case has yet to be resolved.

Although the Corps was aware of "an ongoing investigation" into MWI in relation to the suit, Bedey said federal contracting laws prohibits the Corps from excluding MWI from the bidding process so long as the company has a clean record.
So, the results of today’s round of Spocko’s Brain’s “paying attention to the people,” which I have modified to "pay attention to the players":
Jeb Bush to David Eller to MWI to Nigeria to William Jefferson to Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar back to William Bucknam and MWI
Then there's this, with Vice President and General Counsel of Moving Waters Industries William (Bill) Bucknam:
BILL BUCKNAM is in the enviable position of having a job that allows him to help bring improved economic circumstances and better living to countless numbers of people in some of the world’s poorest countries as well as right here in the U.S.

His job title — vice president and general counsel — reveals nothing of his fortunate circumstances. But there’s a clue in his employer’s name: Moving Water Industries (MWI) Corporation…

***

One of MWI’s Ex-Im-supported sales in 1997 — the sale of their patented Hydraflo pumps to Zimbabwe using a $23 million Ex-Im direct loan — is notable for its origins. “I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Zimbabwe President Mugabe at a 1995 event in Washington,” Bucknam recounts. “I handed him our brochure called ‘War on Drought’ and began to explain it. He interrupted, saying, ‘We need you badly. We need this technology. When can you come to Africa?’

“I went to Zimbabwe soon after, with a $50 mil-lion expression-of-interest letter from Ex-Im that — to everyone’s good fortune — they were able to generate almost overnight. Things proceeded from there to finalizing the deal and getting our people and some of those hundreds of our suppliers to work on it in 1997.”
Hmm… Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe…
Under the Authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act, the President has issued an Executive Order targeting the assets of Robert Mugabe and 76 Zimbabwean Government officials who have formulated, implemented, or supported policies that have undermined Zimbabwe's democratic institutions.

The order blocks all property and economic assets of the targeted individuals. It also prohibits United States citizens or residents from engaging in any transaction or dealing with the targeted individuals.
That’s from a 2003 White House press release. I think the sanctions against U.S. citizens doing business with Mugabe are still in effect, judging by recent events.

The sanctions were not in effect in 1995 when the Bucknam-Mugabe meeting took place. I am not alleging anything illegal happened. I am just paying attention to the players, and the players here were MWI, an African country, and Ex-Im loans.

Sound familiar?
Nigeria has been MWI's key customer since the 1980s, thanks in large part to the Ex-Im bank. Before Bush joined Eller's team in 1989, MWI received nearly $90-million in Ex-Im backing for pump sales to Nigeria.

The country's problems paying back those loans prompted Ex-Im to tighten its loan policies for Nigeria. But by 1990, MWI was working on persuading Ex-Im officials to back more pumps sales to Nigeria. They approved eight separate loans to Nigeria totaling $74.3-million.
Those Ex-Im loans to Nigeria were the reason for the 2002 U.S. Justice Department lawsuit.

Is it always *only* Nigeria? I'm just asking the question.

By the way, props to the St. Petersburg Times.

[ADDED] I forgot about the BFF.

2 comments:

Professor Zero said...

*Very* interesting!

m-uthman said...

Nice blog. Very informative