The FBI videotaped Representative William Jefferson accepting US$100,000 in cash to allegedly bribe a high-ranking Nigerian official and agents later found the money hidden in his freezer, according to a court document.
The FBI revealed on Sunday that Jefferson, a Democratic congressman from New Orleans who being investigated for bribery, was videotaped the money in US$100 notes from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded.
At one meeting captured on audiotape, Jefferson chuckles about writing in code to keep secret what the government contends was his corrupt role in getting his children a cut of a communications company's deal for work in Africa.
As Jefferson and the informant passed notes about what percentage the lawmaker's family might receive, the congressman "began laughing and said, 'All these damn notes we're writing to each other as if we're talking, as if the FBI is watching,"' he told the businesswoman, who was wearing an FBI recording device.
Jefferson has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.
As for the US$100,000, the government says Jefferson received the money in a leather briefcase last July 30 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington. The plan was for the lawmaker to use the cash to bribe a high-ranking Nigerian official the name is blacked out in the court document to ensure the success of a business deal in that country, the affidavit said.
While the name of the intended recipient of the US$100,000 is blacked out, other details in the affidavit indicate he is Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria's vice-president. He owns a home in Potomac, Maryland, that authorities have searched as part of the Jefferson investigation.
Abubakar is widely expected to run for president in elections planned for 2007. Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer and the fifth-leading source of US oil imports.
All but US$10,000 was recovered on August 3 when the FBI searched Jefferson's home in Washington. The money was stuffed in his freezer, wrapped in US$10,000 packs and concealed in food containers and aluminum foil.
Two of Jefferson's associates have pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges in federal court in Alexandria. One, businessman Vernon Jackson of Louisville, Kentucky, admitted paying more than US$400,000in bribes to the lawmaker in exchange for his help securing business deals for Jackson's telecommunications company in Nigeria and other African countries.
The new details about the case emerged after the FBI searched Jefferson's congressional office on Capitol Hill on Saturday night and Sunday. The nearly 100-page affidavit for a search warrant, made public on Sunday with large portions blacked out, spells out much of the evidence so far.
The document includes excerpts of conversations between Jefferson and an unidentified business executive from northern Virginia. She agreed to wear a wire after she approached the FBI with complaints Jefferson and an associate had ripped her off in a business deal.
Source: China Daily