Lawyer jailed for bribery in the US struck off by SDT

A solicitor jailed for 21 months following US bribery charges has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and ordered to pay £7,000 costs.

The SDT found that Jeffrey Tesler’s actions “constituted a failure to act with integrity and a failure to uphold the confidence the public has in the profession” following his conviction in Texas on bribery charges last year.

Former lawyer Tesler was convicted in a Texas court last year of acting as a middleman to channel bribes to Nigerian officials on behalf of American engineering company KBR.

He confessed to being part of a consortium conspiring to channel $180m (£115m) to politicians and officials in return for major construction contracts. That included at one point stuffing a briefcase with $1m (£636,000) of $100 notes and sending to a politician’s hotel room in order to fund a Nigerian political party.

The lawyer received two years’ probation and agreed to forfeit more than $148m (£94m) from accounts in 12 Swiss banks and four from Israel.

Tesler was the second man to have been sentenced for his part bribing officials to secure the contacts. Wojciech Chodan, a 74-year-old retired sales executive from Somerset, was also sentenced to a year’s probation and fined $20,000 for his part in the bribery scheme. They were both working to secure contracts worth $6bn to build a gas plant on Bonny Island off the coast of Nigeria for the consortium of construction firms. Chodan forfeited $726,000 (£461,325) as part of his punishment.

The controversial prosecutions were a result of extraditions to the US, in line with a contentious legal arrangement between the US and the UK. They followed failed legal battles in the UK. The Serious Fraud Office had decided to step aside from investigating the corruption allegations, which surfaced more than eight years ago, and let the US government prosecute the two.