Trial of William Jefferson (D-LA): More Scummy Deals Revealed

William Jefferson trial about to enter final lap

Friday’s session began with testimony from Thomas Hardy, an official of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, who said that in his eight years with the agency he had never seen a member of Congress take such a hands-on interest in a project as Jefferson did in a fertilizer project in Nigeria. Hardy said he did not know at the time that Jefferson’s brother, Mose, had a financial interest in the effort.

Had he known, Hardy said, he would have reported it to the agency’s general counsel as “an explicit conflict of interest, a congressman advocating for a project when he or his family had a financial stake.”

The day ended with the appearance of Baton Rouge lobbyist James Creaghan, who was involved in several of the bribe schemes Jefferson is accused of, and appeared as a cooperating witness for the government in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

One of the first questions put to Creaghan, by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Duross, was whether he had ever paid bribes to Jefferson.

“Yes, ” he replied. “Yes I did.”

Creaghan, 65, testified about three separate projects in which he said payments — he called them “bribes” — were made to Mose Jefferson. That included the fertilizer plant in Nigeria, garbage-to-energy incinerators proposed by the New Orleans company LETH Energy, and oil-drilling rights for parcels off the coast of the West African nation of Sao Tome and Principe.

In the last case, Jefferson agreed to help resolve a dispute over the rights. Prosecutors say that in exchange for Jefferson’s help, investor Noreen Wilson, who is expected to testify Monday, agreed to provide Mose Jefferson’s company with one of the three disputed drilling lots. Creaghan estimated the deal was worth several hundred million dollars.

On that deal, Creaghan said he decided he deserved a share of the proceeds because he had brought Wilson and Jefferson together.

“I wanted to be part of this, ” said Creaghan, describing his motivation as “greed, the money, the potential.”

In the end, the disputes weren’t resolved, and neither he nor Mose Jefferson got anything.

[emphasis added]