FBI tapes played in trial of former Rep. William Jefferson
by Jonathan Tilove, The Times-Picayune
Monday July 06, 2009, 12:18 PM
ALEXANDRIA, VA. - Prosecutors in the corruption trial of former Rep. William Jefferson continued to play audio and tapes for jurors today, leading up to the moment that investigators say that the Democratic congressman accepted $100,000 from Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody as a bribe intended for the then-vice president of Nigeria.
FBI agents later found $90,000 of the marked money in Jefferson's freezer in what became the iconic event of the government's 16-count indictment against the nine-term New Orleans congressman.
Jefferson has pleaded innocent and said that his dealings with Mody were as a private citizen and not subject to the federal bribery statutes.
The tapes, recorded in June 2005, include discussions between Jefferson and Mody about their joint venture in seeking a contract in Nigeria for iGate Inc., a Kentucky technology firm that would provide Internet connections through copper wiring.
The tapes also revealed how the FBI pushed to stall cash payments to Jefferson and had Mody ask him about setting up a deal in Ghana to obtain more evidence.
Prosecutors say that the money handed over to Jefferson was intended to be paid as a bribe to then-Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar to help further the deal. Abubakar has denied ever being offered a bribe. Investigators say Abubakar had left the country before Jefferson could deliver the money, most of which he stored in the freezer of his Washington, D.C., home. About half of the missing $10,000 was loaned to a Jefferson staffer, and the rest was returned to the Justice Department.
FBI Agent Timothy Thibault is expected to continue his testimony through tomorrow, when the defense will begin cross-examination.