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Africa Last Updated: Apr 6, 2008 - 9:33:59 AM

Texas Oil Man: The Kase Lawal Fugitive Scandal
By Sahara Reporters 4/4/08
Apr 6, 2008 - 8:53:12 AM

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Last September Saharareporters commenced writing reports about Mr. Kase Lawal's fugitive status in Nigeria just as the Nigeria Lawyers Association gave him an "award" that also had the controversial Attorney General of Nigeria, Michael Aondoakaa in attendance. As usual we were ignored by the local and international media until two weeks ago when Kase Lawal was in the news again as he hosted Mrs. Turai Yar'adua, Nigeria's "First Lady" to a lavish party in Houston, Texas offering an undisclosed donation to a yet to be registered non-profit organization. By the end of yesterday, a major US newspaper has picked up the story on Kase Lawal's fugitive background in connection with the US elections and a major Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton.


We bring you the story that is likely to bring Hillary into hot water and perhaps end her presidential run in comparison to our previous reports on Kase Lawal, his connections with "President" Yar'adua's wife, and his already cosy relationship with Nigeria's super-corrupt Attorney General, (Mr. Lawal's namesake), Mr. Michael Kase Aondoakaa and why Kase Lawal's case may not get anywhere before it is "dismissed for lacking in merit" by the Nigerian authorities. Also stay tuned for our interview with Mr. Kase Lawal.

Clinton fundraiser faces legal problems in Nigeria

A Texas oilman who's accused of defrauding the Nigerian government by illegally pumping and exporting 10 million barrels of oil is a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Kase Lawal of Houston is at least the fourth person accused or convicted of criminal wrongdoing to help finance Clinton's political ambitions since 2000 and the second in her quest for the White House. The list also includes Chinese and Pakistani fugitives and a former Miami lawyer who was convicted of defrauding Cuba.

There's no indication that Clinton's campaign was aware of Lawal's legal problems when it accepted his help in raising more than $100,000, but a McClatchy Newspapers investigation in the U.S. and Nigeria suggests that her campaign did little to scrutinize the background of one of its top fundraisers.

Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman, brushed off such criticism.

"While no vetting process is perfect, our vetting department does extensive vetting in order to catch any issues with donors," he said. "And to our knowledge, Mr. Lawal is an upstanding member of his community in Houston."

However, a simple Google search by McClatchy produced reports of serious allegations about some of Lawal's business dealings in Nigeria and South Africa.

Clinton's campaign lists Lawal among about 250 "Hillraisers" who pledged to collect at least $100,000 in donations. Clinton attended a fundraising luncheon at Lawal's home in Houston last Aug. 11 that generated more than $100,000, and she spoke to about 250 guests gathered around Lawal's indoor swimming pool, including two former Houston mayors and Shell Oil President John Hofmeister.

Lawal, 53, who holds dual U.S.-Nigerian citizenship and whose energy company has become one of the nation's largest black-owned businesses, said in interviews that he "unequivocally and vigorously" denies the Nigerian charges. The African case was initiated by the top financial crime-fighter in Nigeria, a country that's rich in oil but also rampant with corruption.

Lawal, a commissioner of the Houston Port Authority since 1999, a community leader and a philanthropist, said he didn't know of the charges against him until McClatchy Newspapers contacted him last week. Saying he was "stunned," Lawal said he has traveled at least 70 times to Nigeria since 1999, is often greeted by police and has never been served with legal papers.

Lawal said he suspects that a now-deceased partner in a Niger Delta drilling venture "trumped up" the accusations as part of a scheme to blackmail subsidiaries of his company, CAMAC International Corp.

The criminal complaint in Nigeria against Lawal, two of his affiliated companies, five other individuals and the Irish firm Tuskar Resources Ltd. was filed in a legal system that's fraught with allegations of graft and phony, politically driven prosecutions.

But the case against Lawal was brought by Nuhu Ribadu, an assistant police commissioner who later rose to become the country's top anti-corruption crusader.

During Ribadu's four years as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the agency recovered $5 billion in stolen government funds and prosecuted 250 individuals, including a top police officer, eight former governors and a former vice president who allegedly was bribed by Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.

Jefferson has been charged with bribing an unidentified Nigerian official, and his case is ongoing in a federal court in Virginia.

The case against Lawal has received little attention in Nigeria and none in the U.S. media until now.

The separate South Africa controversy unfolded after the Commerce Department named Lawal to a business development committee of the U.S.-South African Binational Commission, and President Bill Clinton appointed him to a Trade Advisory Committee on Africa in 1999.

From 2003 to 2005, the Mail & Guardian in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported in several stories that Lawal had engineered a deal between the South African government and Nigeria that ultimately promised to bring South Africa 120,000 barrels of oil a day at wholesale prices.

Neither of two companies that CAMAC set up ever provided any oil to South Africa, however. Instead, the oil went to one of them in the Cayman Islands that was 75 percent owned by CAMAC, the newspaper said. Its minority owners remain secret.

The other firm, which apparently got no oil, was the South Africa Oil Co., established in Pretoria. CAMAC owned 49 percent of its shares. The remaining shareholders were a "who's who" of relatives of leaders of the country's ruling African National Congress, the newspaper said.

No one has been charged with a crime in connection with the incident.

The case against Lawal stalled for five years due to a legal challenge after CAMAC's Nigerian affiliates and employees challenged the federal police's authority to prosecute cases that normally are handled by Nigeria's attorney general. The Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled in favor of the police in 2006.

Lawal said he was told last week that three national police chiefs have looked at the case since the court ruling, and each concluded that it "has no merit." Others blamed the inaction on Ribadu's departure from the federal police.

Ribadu, who's now studying at a rural institute, was replaced as crime commission chairman in February. He declined comment.

But in Nigeria's capital city of Abuja, Columbus Okaro, the commissioner of the federation police's legal section, said the criminal complaint is pending. He also expressed irritation at hearing that Lawal had visited Nigeria without being served legal papers. While he couldn't explain the inaction since 2006, Okaro said: "I'm the man who should be charging him. I want to go ahead with the case."

Lawal didn't respond to requests for comment about the South Africa deal, but in an extensive interview on the Nigerian charges, he said he's neither a fugitive nor a convict.

Sitting in his 22nd-floor office overlooking Houston's upscale Galleria neighborhood, he said: "My company, my actions and everything that we have done has always been aboveboard."

He urged a reporter to check with Nigeria's attorney general to see whether the charges remain valid and said he'd ask Nigerian police "to make a decision one way or the other" on the criminal charge "to close the chapter or to go forward with it, so that we can have a logical conclusion."

In an interview in Nigeria, Taye Akiyemi, a spokesman for Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa, said: "There are many rich and powerful Nigerians out there. If he's innocent, he should come here and defend himself. The Nigerian courts are waiting for him. Nigeria is practicing the rule of law now."

Lawal said he supports Clinton because she and her husband are "just an intelligent couple, and we are fascinated by what they have done for America."

Lawal, who attended U.S. colleges, founded CAMAC in 1986 and built it into a $1.6 billion enterprise that ranked No. 296 on Forbes Magazine's 2007 list of the top 400 privately held companies.

He's also the vice chairman of the Houston Airport System Development Corp. and a co-owner of Texas' first black-owned bank, the Unity Bank.

Turai Yar'adua hosted to a lavish party by controversial oil businessman, Kase Lawal of CAMAC International
Saharareporters, New York (Published March 2008)

More shady details have emerged about Mrs. Turai Yar'adua's activities during her recent trip to Houston, TX.

Last week, in a report titled “Turai Yar’adua is the new Andy Uba,” Saharareporters had disclosed that “First Lady” Turai Yar’adua was in the U.S. to cement corrupt deals with some players in the oil industry.

Part of Turai Yar’adua’s curious itinerary was to be chief guest at a lavish reception party hosted last Wednesday Mr. Kase Lawal, a fugitive from Nigeria.

The shadowy Mr. Lawal is the Chief Executive Officer of Houston, Texas-based CAMAC International Corporation. One source who is close to Mr. Lawal described him as “well wired into the Texas oil magnate community.”

Mr. Lawal’s company, CAMAC International, is one of the 28 beneficiaries just granted approval by Umar Yar'adua to lift about 60,000 barrels each per day of Nigerian oil.

Since Saharareporters published an investigative report about Mrs. Yar'adua’s nepotism, greed and control over her husband’s regime, her aides and hired sycophants have called Nigerian editors and written to us to insist that she visited Texas on a mission to sign a partnership agreement with a Texas Hospital related to cancer issues in Nigeria.

But CAMAC's role in openly sponsoring a party for her is one of the pointers to the fact that oil deals were the real focus of her trip.

Mr. Lawal has long been a fishy presence in Nigeria’s oil sector. During the Ibrahim Babangida regime, Mr. Lawal used his closeness to then Petroleum Minister Rilwan Lukman to broker some questionable oil sector deals. He was also involved in oil deals in South Africa where he reportedly acted as a front for major ANC party stalwarts.

Mr. Lawal, a big player in the seamy and corruption-ridden world of Nigerian oil business, escaped from Nigeria several years ago amid a scandal that was going to see him prosecuted.

He began his effort at image rehabilitation when a few of his contacts got the U.S.-based Nigerian Lawyers Association to bestow a special award on him in New York City in 2007.

Saharareporters reported that Nigeria's Attorney General, Michael Andoakaa, whose office should be seeking Lawal's extradition, was on hand to lend official credibility to the fugitive's so-called "honor" by the NLA.

In 1999, Lawal was indicted and arraigned by Nigerian police authorities on charges of stealing an oil block belonging to the late Maiduguri-based businessman, Mai Deribe. The police charged Lawal and his staff before a Lagos High Court.

Shortly after the institution of the case, Lawal, who is highly connected, reportedly bribed both the then Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation to intervene by 'killing' the case.

As the main suspect, Mr. Kase Lawal—who holds dual Nigerian and US citizenships—fled Nigeria, leaving behind his staff members led by one Mr. Osahon to face the consequences. A warrant of arrest was issued against Lawal while Osahon and others were lined up to face trial.

In a curious development, the then Attorney General quashed the case by claiming that only the office of the Attorney General of the federation was empowered to initiate prosecution against criminals.

The case became a subject of protracted litigation known as Osahon V. FGN (Federal Government of Nigeria). The case tested the power of the police and other security agencies to initiate criminal prosecution. After victories by Attorney General at the High Court and the Appellate Court, the Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that the police and other security agencies could initiate criminal proceedings without express permission from the AGF's office. The ruling effectively empowered the police to prosecute Lawal and co. for their crimes.

However, Lawal is yet to face trial for his crimes. Instead, he has operated from several countries abroad while continuing to serve as a front for several business interests of politically exposed persons in the Nigerian oil sector.

Saharareporters was unable to confirm whether Mr. Lawal's CAMAC International has any business dealings with Mrs. Yar'adua, who returned to Nigeria on Monday.

When Saharareporters contacted Mr. Lawal's company to confirm the reception for Turai Yar’adua, a CAMAC spokesperson, Kimberly Nichols, told our reporter that the company sponsored the "African Cancer Prevention Group" to host Mrs. Yar'adua as corporate citizens. She said that Mr. Lawal did not host Mrs. Yar'adua to a private party. When asked to comment on the status of Mr. Lawal's case with the police, she declined any comment on the issue saying she doesn't know anything about that.

As earlier reported by Saharareporters, Mrs. Yar'adua is fast becoming the new Andy Uba of the Yar'adua regime. As soon as we published an extensive report about her underhand deals, a worried Turai Yar'adua began to threaten reprisals for her aides whom she blames for ratting her out.

Mrs. Yar'adua is known to be hostile to the private media. Since her husband usurped power through rigged April 2007 elections in Nigeria, she has pressured him not allow members of the independent private media in Nigeria to travel with the presidential convoy. She handpicks and sanctions reporters from the official propaganda media to travel with her as well as her husband.


Kase Lawal Awards: EFCC and AGF takes battle to New York

Saharareporters, New York (Published September 2007)

Mr. Kase Lawal, one of Nigeria's most controversial economic players, is in the news again. Lawal, who was once a big player in the seamy and corruption-ridden world of Nigerian oil business and is now a fugitive from justice, was last week honored in New York City by the U.S.-based Nigerian Lawyers Association.

In a bizarre twist, Nigeria's Attorney General, Michael Andoakaa, whose office should be seeking Lawal's extradition, was on hand lend official imprimatur to the fugitive's so-called "honor."

In 1999, Nuhu Ribadu, who was then an Assistant Police Commissioner (ASP), brought a case to a Lagos High Court against a group of alleged oil block thieves. Shortly after the institution of the case, its highly connected suspects reportedly bribed both the then Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation to intervene by 'killing' the case.
The main suspect, Mr. Kase Lawal –who holds dual Nigerian and US citizenship-, fled the country, leaving behind his staff members led by one Mr. Osahon to face the music.

The then Attorney General moved swiftly to quash the case by claiming that only the office of the Attorney General of the federation was empowered to initiate prosecution against criminals. Despite this move, Ribadu would not give up. The case became a subject of protracted litigation known as Osahon V. FGN (Federal Government of Nigeria). The case tested the power of the police and other security agencies to initiate criminal prosecution. While the Attorney General who provided the basis for the challenge of the Osahon group carried the day at the High Court and the Appellate Court, the Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that the police and other security agencies could initiate criminal proceedings without express permission from the AGF's office effectively empowering the police to prosecute Kase Lawal and co for their crimes.

It was a sort of curious coincidence that some of the principal characters in that landmark case were designed to meet Sept. 15 in an event organized by the Nigerian Lawyers Association (NLA) at the Crown Plaza Hotel in New York.

The event honored the same Mr. Kase Lawal who is considered a fugitive from law as an arrest warrant was issued by the High Court in Lagos against him in 1999, a period that marked a boom in his businesses, especially in South Africa where he secured the assistance of ANC officials in making huge profits from an oil deal that involved Nigeria and South Africa.
Kase Lawal is currently Chairman and CEO of Houston, Texas based CAMAC International Corporation ("CAMAC").Nuhu Ribadu was billed to deliver the keynote address, while the controversial Attorney General of the Federation, Micheal Aondoakaa was also billed to give a pep talk.

However, Nuhu Ribadu for inexplicable reasons pulled out of the event a few hours before the scheduled event in New York. Most people assumed that the presence of Michael Aondokaa, a feisty Attorney General known to have taken on the EFCC since his assumption office, must have been responsible for Ribadu's last minute cancellation of his participation. Sources within EFCC told us that Ribadu didn't want to glorify Attorney General Aondankaa by sharing the platform with him at the same event but then the EFCC Chairman sent his former colleague at the Federal Executive Council, Oby Ezekwesili to represent him.

Principally, EFCC sources told Saharareporters that upon proper background check on Mr. Kase Lawal, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) found out that Mr. Kase Lawal was part of the Osahon group that Nuhu Ribadu, as an Assistant Commissioner of Police had tried to prosecute in 1999 against all pressures. They contend that it was therefore improper for Ribadu to attend a forum honoring Kase Lawal, who had escaped from Nigeria in 1999/2000 after he and others were charged for stealing an oil well.

In fact, the Supreme Court's ruling that emerged from that process to the effect that the police and other agencies could prosecute without recourse to the attorney general helped save the EFCC from Aondakaa's scheme to emasculate the agency by stripping it of prosecutorial powers. Aondoakaa had supposedly conned Umar Musa Yar'adua to into going along with a plan to stop the EFCC from prosecuting suspects. It is widely believed that Andoakaa's move was calculated to save corrupt former governors who are currently facing prosecution by the EFCC. But the AG's efforts collapsed when the West African Bar Association President, Femi Falana, publicized the ruling of the Supreme Court, a move that persuaded Umar Yar'adua to reverse himself by restoring the powers of the EFCC to prosecute.

Mr. Aondoakaa arrived in New York last Wednesday to attend an event that was billed for Saturday, and camped up at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, one of New York City's most expensive hotels. Saharareporters called his room earlier on Sunday to speak to him about his participation in the event but the phone rang without a response. A source later told us that he had left for Nigeria.

More curious is that the Attorney General was said to have invited himself to the event in New York which was planned long before he became the Attorney General. A source within the NLA who spoke under anonymity said there was nothing strange about Aondoakaa’s invitation to the event, he contended that almost all the Attorney Generals have been invited to NLA events in the past. Efforts at speaking with NLA President, Bola Oloko failed as his comrades won’t give Saharareporters his mobile phone number, insisting instead that we send him e-mails.

Sahararareporters is also investigating a tip that the AGF met with former Delta State governor James Ibori, who sneaked out of Nigeria after orchestrating and funding a plan to destroy the EFCC. Ibori left the country as the agency faced mounting pressure to arrest him for corruption and money laundering offences. Ibori has been sighted in New York City, in Florida (where he owns a sprawling estate that is a subject of anti-corruption investigations) and in also in California.

On October 1, Ibori's money laundering case is due to be heard in a Southwark Crown Court in London. The court will, among other things, revisit its order to the effect that Ibori's worldwide assets should be permanently frozen and seized.

As Ibori's London court case looms, and with the prospect of having the English court order the forfeiture of his ill-gotten wealth, the former governor is reportedly working frantically with the Attorney General to send a letter and affidavit to the Southwark Crown Court in London exonerating Ibori of money laundering charges in Nigeria. Our sources indicate that Andoakaa has in principle agreed to offer that aid to Ibori. However, the AG is calculating whether he and Yar'adua can afford the political and other risks of saving a man widely regarded as one of Nigeria's most corrupt former public officials.


Source:Ocnus.net 2008

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