Military Contractor Gets Nine Years in Bribery Case


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Web Posted: 12/12/2009 12:00 CST

Contractor gets 9 years in Army bribery case

By Guillermo Contreras – Express-News

A former civilian Defense Department contract specialist who worked with four Army officers charged with taking millions of dollars in bribes during the war in Iraq was sentenced Thursday to more than nine years in prison for tax evasion.

Tijani Ahmed Saani, 53, worked with former Army Maj. John Cockerham of San Antonio, who was sentenced last week to more than 17 years in prison in what officials said is the largest bribery case in the history of the Defense Department. Saani was sentenced in Washington, D.C., to 110 months in prison and ordered to pay a $1.6 million fine and $816,485 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

Saani has dual citizenship in Ghana and the United States. He is a former resident of Kuwait City, Kuwait, but has homes in the United States. As part of a plea deal, he pleaded guilty in June to five counts of filing false tax returns between 2003 and 2007, admitting unreported taxable income was at least $2.4 million.

Saani worked for the Office of Military Cooperation from 2002 until 2007 at a contracting office at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, that was awash in corruption. Cockerham was deployed to Camp Arifjan in 2004 and 2005.

Saani admitted he failed to report his ownership interests in bank accounts in Ghana, Switzerland, the Jersey Channel Islands, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Saani used those accounts to help conceal his unreported income and to send and receive wire transfers totaling nearly $3.6 million, the Justice Department said.

Prosecutors claimed Saani could provide no proof that he obtained the money legitimately and said in court papers that “the pattern of activity that occurred in Kuwait between 2002 and 2007 means the $3.6 million likely represents proceeds from illegal bribery or embezzlement involving military contractors in Kuwait.”

The prosecutors noted that four of Saani’s co-workers received bribes for rigging contracts there. They include Cockerham, 43, and his now-retired fellow Army majors, James Momon, 37, Eddie Pressley, 39, and Christopher H. Murray, 41.

Cockerham took $9.6 million in bribes of the $15 million he was to collect before he was caught. Momon admitted taking $1.6 million in kickbacks, while Murray pleaded guilty to accepting $245,000 in bribes. Both are awaiting sentencing.

Pressley, who was Cockerham’s barracks mate, is awaiting trial in Alabama on charges that he took $2.8 million in bribes. Another contracting officer at Camp Arifjan, Army Maj. Gloria Davis, killed herself in December 2006 after she admitted to investigators that she took $225,000 in bribes. A former Army sergeant-turned-contractor, Terry Hall, is charged with bribing Pressley and others at Camp Arifjan.

Most of the companies in question were based in the Middle East and have not been charged, though some have been blackballed from contract work for the U.S. government.

SOURCE San Antonio Express News

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