William Jefferson

FILE -- In this Nov. 4, 2008 file photo, former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D. La. is shown in New Orleans. Jury selection for former Congressman William Jefferson's corruption trial is starting in suburban Washington Tuesday, June 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Judi Bottoni, File)

Nigeria is about to elect a new president. And believe it or not, there’s a local angle to the story.

One of the candidates in the Feb. 16 election, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, has a history of sketchy dealings in the United States. One of them was central to the trial of former Louisiana U.S. Rep. William Jefferson.

Remember the $90,000 that investigators found in Jefferson’s freezer back in 2005? Jefferson was caught on tape saying the money was destined to be a bribe for Abubakar, then the country’s vice president, in exchange for favorable treatment for a deal the congressman was brokering. The drop never happened, and Abubakar was never charged.

He was also investigated by Congress in 2010 after he and his wife transferred more than $40 million in questionable funds into the U.S. from offshore companies, according to Bloomberg.

Stephanie Grace: William Jefferson gets a key assist from another sleazy pol

This history was a potential political problem for Abubakar, but things are looking up for him of late. After years of being denied an American visa, he hired a lobbying team close to President Donald Trump, and voila. His access to Washington’s power set restored, he’s been seen at the president’s Trump International Hotel in Washington and has posted pictures of meetings with members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Congress, according to the Bloomberg story. Back home, Abubakar is apparently using this newfound coziness as a selling point to voters.

As for the Jefferson angle, here’s a final, often overlooked footnote: While Jefferson was convicted on ten corruption charges (seven of which were later thrown out for unrelated reasons), on the one charge directly related to the cold cash, the jury found him not guilty.


Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.