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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
US lawmaker faces bribery charges
William Jefferson in a file photo
William Jefferson was determined to clear his name, his lawyer said
US Democratic Congressman William Jefferson, who allegedly hid $90,000 in his freezer, has been charged with 16 counts of bribery and corruption.

Prosecutors accuse Mr Jefferson of using his official position to broker deals in several African nations and demand kickbacks for himself.

Mr Jefferson's lawyer said he was innocent and would fight the charges.

Mr Jefferson, who represents a Louisiana district, was re-elected last November while under investigation.

A 94-page indictment accuses Mr Jefferson of involvement in a series of bribery schemes that netted him more than $500,000 (250,000).

He is accused of racketeering, soliciting bribes for himself and his family, wire fraud, money-laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

He is also charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits corporate bribery overseas.

If convicted on all counts, Mr Jefferson faces a possible maximum sentence of 235 years in prison.

'Food containers'

Prosecutors allege that the congressman used his position on the congressional Africa Investment and Trade Caucus to broker deals in numerous African countries, including Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An FBI witness said Mr Jefferson put $90,000, intended as a bribe for an unnamed Nigerian official, in his home freezer, wrapped in aluminium foil and concealed in food containers.

Mr Jefferson's lawyer, Robert Trout, accused prosecutors of "trying to create an offence".

"Even after they turned over every rock, they did not allege in this indictment that (Jefferson) promised anybody any legislation. There is no suggestions that he promised anyone any appropriations... There were no government contracts," Mr Trout said.


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