Atiku’s US Visit: What does a $1.1 million lobbying contract buy in Trump’s Washington?

What does a $1.1 million lobbying contract buy in Trump’s Washington?

Atiku Abubakar, the former vice president of Nigeria, had not visited the United States for twelve years. He is currently running for president and his inability to travel to the United States was being used by his political opponents in Nigeria as proof of his corruption and unsuitability for public office.

A former U.S. government official confirmed to Popular Information that Abubakar was formally barred from obtaining a visa pursuant to a presidential proclamation targeting corrupt foreign officials.

Then everything changed.

With the election less than a month away, Abubakar arrived in the United States last Thursday and promptly checked into the Trump hotel.

What happened? In November, Abubakar hired a key member of Trump’s political operation with a $1.1 million per year lobbying contract.

Abubakar’s visit was almost entirely ignored by the U.S. media. But it’s a story that reveals a lot about how things work in Trump’s Washington.

$40 million in suspect funds

The corruption allegations against Abubakar are detailed in a 2010 bipartisan reportby the U.S. Senate, “KEEPING FOREIGN CORRUPTION OUT OF THE UNITED STATES: FOUR CASE HISTORIES.” Abubakar denies all allegations of corruption in the report and has never been criminally charged.

The report says that Abubakar, through his wife, Jennifer Douglas Abubakar, funneled $40 million in “suspect funds” to the United States, including millions in “bribe payments.” An alleged bribe which came from a major German corporation, Siemens, looms large.

Siemens has admitted in court to engaging in widespread bribery and bank records link the corrupt activity to Abubakar and his wife.

In December 2008, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in a formal complaint against Siemens AG, a German company, that, among other actions, in 2001 and 2002, Siemens wire transferred $2.8 million in bribe payments to a U.S. bank account belonging to Ms. Douglas as part of a scheme to bribe Nigerian officials.

In response to this and other legal actions, Siemens admitted to engaging in widespread bribery payments, pled guilty to criminal violations and settled civil violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to pay over $1.6 billion in civil and criminal fines. Ms. Douglas has denied any wrongdoing, but the Subcommittee has obtained financial records showing the transfer of over $1.7 million from Siemens AG to Ms. Douglas’ account at Citibank.

A freezer full of cash

Abubakar was also implicated in the investigation of William Jefferson, the former Congressman who is serving a 13-year sentence for corruption. Abubakar denies any wrongdoing connected to the case and has not been charged.

But the FBI raided Abubakar’s Maryland home during their investigation. An affidavit released by the FBI describes a scheme between Jefferson and Abubakar.

The documents included an affidavit signed by an F.B.I. agent who said that the Nigerian vice president, Atiku Abubakar, now a candidate for president of that oil-rich West African nation, asked for at least half of the profits of a technology company controlled by Mr. Jefferson that was seeking to do business in Nigeria.

About the same time last year, the documents said, Mr. Jefferson told colleagues of his plans to bribe Nigerian officials, including Mr. Abubakar, in exchange for their help in winning business in Nigeria, and that Mr. Abubakar would be paid as much as $500,000 in cash.

According to the FBI, cell phone records and conversations between Jefferson and a confidential informant confirmed the scheme. The FBI did not provide conclusive evidence that any money was paid to Abubakar. But the FBI says the $90,000 in cash found in Jefferson’s freezer was intended for Abubakar.

Presidential Proclamation 7750

Abubakar spoke openly about his inability to obtain a U.S. visa. “It is the sole prerogative of America to determine who they want in their country or not. I’m not running away from America. I applied, but wasn’t issued a visa,” Abubakar said in an interview in December 2017.

In 2004, President George W. Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 7750 which ban entry into the United States for current and former corrupt foreign officials — especially those whose corruption has a nexus in the United States.

The U.S. government does not publicly disclose why individuals are denied visas. But a former government official who has seen the documentation confirmed to Popular Information that Abubakar, until very recently, was banned from obtaining a U.S. visa under Proclamation 7750.

Enter Brian Ballard

So Abubakar had a problem. His inability to enter the United States was becoming a drag on his campaign to be the next president of Nigeria.

So he hired Brian Ballard.

Ballard is a lobbyist with deep connections to the Trump administration. Ballard, a prolific fundraiser, “chaired the Trump Victory organization” in Florida and “lobbied on behalf of the Trump Organization in the state for more than a decade.”

After Trump was elected, Ballard expanded his practice in DC and signed up a slew of A-list clients eager to tap into his connections. Ballard “also represents governments of Qatar, Turkey, Maldives, the Dominican Republic and Mali and lists US corporate giants Amazon, Sprint and Uber as clients.”

Raj Shah, Trump’s former Principal Deputy Press Secretary left the White House last week to join Ballard’s firm.

On September 21, 2018, Abubakar, through his political party, The People’s Democratic Party, inked a contract with Ballard Partners for $1.1 million per year. Among other things, Ballard was to help Abubakar advance “democratic values and the rule of law in Nigeria.” The contract required an immediate payment of $270,000 with another $270,000 due in late December.

In January, Abubakar was able to travel to the United States.

Despite his connections to the William Jefferson bribery scandal, he was even able to score a meeting with Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Abubakar also claimed in an interview that he was scheduled to meet with officials at the State Department.

Now Abubakar is back in Nigeria, buoyed by his trip to the United States as his campaign enters its final days. His campaign slogan is Trumpian: “Let’s get Nigeria working again.” He is running on a pledge “to double the size of Nigeria’s economy to $900 billion by 2025″ by privatizing the economy.

 

Source: Popular Information — written by me, Judd Legum.

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