Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Post Links Jefferson To ERHC, But Only In Someone's Opinion

In a post that looks very much like it was written by the spinmeisters at Exxon or Chevron, a message this morning on an online Hyperdynamics board that was copied from the subscriber-only African Energy Intelligence service reads like a substantive newspaper article - at least at first glance.

ERHC Energy, GEECF and SunTrust, a Nigerian firm, are linked to suggest a common interest mediated by former US Ambassador to Nigeria Howard Jeter, a member of ERHC's board and head of the nonprofit Goodworks International relief agency.

Too clever by half, though, the African Energy Intelligence article is given away when a personal opinion that ERHC is linked to Jefferson awkwardly peers out of a long, allusion-filled paragraph:

We understand the operation was linked to the FBI investigation into Jefferson.

But the bogus content is even more obvious when a sentence by sentence parsing of the article - which we will spare you this morniong - is applied.

One interesting fact is that one person does have GEECF in common: the elder Phil Nugent, the Houston-based ERHC investor who holds or held a huge quantity of ERHC shares and whose accountant, Norma Reynolds, runs the ERHC message board under the nickname chcr.
Nugent was an early, large financial backer of both companies, and is now upset with GEECF, which he says duped him.

Here is the African Energy Intelligence article:

A Private Line into African Oil Bonanza

With the Bush administration sealing alliances in Africa to ensure the continent becomes a leading supplier of oil to the United States a number of leading American figures have personally involved themselves in African petroleum projects. This personal aspect to American oil diplomacy in Africa appears to have led to irregularities that were long tolerated by the authorities. But now Washington appears intent on cracking down.

William Jefferson’s Lobbying in Gulf of Guinea. A Democrat legislator from Louisiana, William Jefferson, has been under investigation by the FBI since last year for allegedly accepting bribes from firms looking for introductions in Africa, a continent he regularly visits. A warrant authorizing the search of Jefferson’s Capitol Hill office talked of eight cases of potential bribery. Africa Energy Intelligence understands several cases involve oil groups seeking to establish themselves in Equatorial Guinea, Congo-B, Nigeria and Sao Tome; Jefferson frequently met the leaders of all four nations.

Indeed, the representative traveled regularly to the continent, particularly to Equatorial Guinea in 2000 with executives from Shaw Global Energy Service and CMS Energy, and to Congo-Brazzaville in 2002. He toured the Gulf of Guinea more generally in 2004, visiting Sao Tome, Equatorial Nigeria, Nigeria and Cameroon. That trip was sponsored by Global Energy, an oil company once headed by former Irish prime minister Albert Reynolds. Global Energy won a concession in Nigeria’s offshore last year but had to abandon it because it was unable to pay the front-end bonus.

ERHC’s Mentors. In addition to Global Energy, another small American firm, ERHC, was in contact with Jefferson through its lobbyists in Washington. Controlled by several American businessmen and Nigeria’s Emeka Offor, ERHC holds stakes in several licenses in the Joint Development Zone between Nigeria and Sao Tome. The company’s offices in Houston were raided by the police on May 4. We understand the operation was linked to the FBI investigation into Jefferson. When rifling through ERHC’s papers, the investigators seized all of the group’s communications with politicians in Nigeria and Sao Tome.

ERHC also works with the former American ambassador to Nigeria and ex director of the West African affairs office at the State Department, Howard Jeter. He joined ERHC’s board last year.

Andrew Young’s Oil Connections. However, EHRC is not the only company involved in African oil that Jeter is associated with. The former diplomat is also executive vice president of GoodWorks International, a consultancy and lobbying firm headed by the former American ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young. Very close to Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo (several of the Nigerian leader’s children visit the Young family in Atlanta), Young has ties with a Nigerian oil company, SunTrust Oil. He isn’t mentioned among the group’s stakeholders in papers filed by Sun Trust with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria, but Carlon Master, GoodWorks’ president, works closely with the company’s Nigerian shareholders.

Sun Trust owns 30% of the Umusadege field which contains no less than 16 reservoirs and is considered one of the country’s most promising marginal fields. Umusadege is located on the former OML 56 block which Total relinquished in 2001 and which the Nigerian government awarded to a consortium of local companies led by Midwestern Oil & Gas. Last month Midwestern joined forces with Mart Resources, a company headed by Wade Cherwayko, under a deal that will see the Canadian group taking part in financing the development of Umusadege.

Sun Trust, advised by the former director of Nigeria’s Department of Petroleum Resources, Winston Dublin-Green, is negotiating a similar deal with Mart but the talks have yet to result in an accord.

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