WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration's former chief procurement official, David H. Safavian, was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on charges of making false statements and obstructing investigations into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The counts in the indictment charge Safavian with obstructing investigations into whether he had aided Abramoff in efforts to acquire property controlled by the General Services Administration.
The inquiries looked into an August 2002 trip that Safavian took to Scotland with Abramoff; Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition executive; Representative Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio, and others.
Safavian, a former lobbying associate of Abramoff, is the first person beyond Abramoff to face charges arising from the investigation of the lobbyist, who is a major Republican fund-raiser with close ties to GOP leaders in Congress.
The indictment covers May 16, 2002, until January 2004, when Safavian was chief of staff at the General Services Administration, the government housekeeping agency.
From November 2004 until late last month, when Safavian resigned three days before his arrest, he headed the government's top procurement officer in the Office of Management and Budget.
The indictment said Safavian had falsely told a GSA ethics officer, a GSA inspector general's agent, and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that Abramoff had no business with the GSA at the time the Scotland trip was being planned.
It said that Safavian had concealed Abramoff's business with the GSA before the trip and that Safavian was helping him in dealings with the GSA.
Barbara Van Gelder, Safavian's lawyer, said Safavian would plead not guilty. ''If this case did not involve Mr. Abramoff, the government would never have indicted Mr. Safavian on these charges," she added.
Each count carries a potential top penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.