Nigeria may strike deal in Halliburton, Cheney case

Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:41am GMT
 

By Joe Brock

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria's anti-corruption police said on Tuesday it may drop bribery charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and oil services firm Halliburton

after the company offered to pay a fine.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it met with officials representing Cheney and Halliburton in London last week after filing 16-count charges at a federal high court in Abuja in a case dating back to the mid-1990s.

Halliburton, which has said the Nigerian charges have no legal basis, could not immediately be reached to comment on the outcome of the meeting. But EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi said an offer had been made to pay fines totalling up to $250 million.

"They have made offers of fines to be paid in penalties. They offered to pay $120 million in addition to the repatriation of $130 million trapped in Switzerland," Babafemi said.

"It will need to be ratified by the government and we expect a decision by the end of the week," he said.

Houston-based engineering firm KBR, a former Halliburton unit, pleaded guilty last year to U.S. charges that it paid $180 million in bribes between 1994 and 2004 to Nigerian officials to secure $6 billion in contracts for the Bonny Island liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the Niger Delta.

KBR and Halliburton reached a $579 million settlement in the United States. But Nigeria, France and Switzerland have conducted their own investigations into the case.

The EFCC last week charged Halliburton Chief Executive David Lesar, Cheney, and two other executives. It also filed charges against Halliburton as a company, which was headed by Cheney during the 1990s, and four associated businesses.

Cheney was U.S. vice president from 2001 to 2009.

Halliburton split from KBR in 2007. It has said that its current operations in Nigeria -- raided by the EFCC last month -- were not involved in the Bonny project and that there is no legal basis for the charges.

Those charged in Nigeria include KBR Chief Executive Officer William Utt and former KBR CEO Albert "Jack" Stanley, who worked under Cheney when he headed Halliburton and pleaded guilty in 2008 to U.S. charges related to the case.

KBR said Utt had only joined the firm in February 2006 and that the rest of its executive team was appointed thereafter. It has accused Nigeria of "wildly and wrongly asserting blame".

The TSKJ consortium which built the Bonny plant was also charged by the EFCC.

As well as KBR, the consortium included France's Technip SA , Italy's Snamprogetti -- a unit of Italian oilfield services company Saipem, whose parent company is Eni -- and Japan's JGC Corp.

<p>U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney speaks about national security at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in this file image from May 21, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files</p>
 
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