The massive industrial conglomerate Halliburton has reportedly offered to pay $250 million to settle charges against its former chief executive, ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, in a multi-million dollar bribery case.
Nigeria filed charges against Cheney last week in an investigation of alleged bribery estimated at $180 million. Prosecutors named both Halliburton and KBR in the charges, as well as three European oil and engineering companies — Technip SA, EniSpa, and Saipem Construction. Eleven Halliburton officials were arrested last month and freed on bail Nov. 29.
The charges allege that engineering contractor KBR, until 2007 a subsidiary of Halliburton, was among companies that paid bribes to secure a $6 billion contract for a natural gas plant. KBR pleaded guilty to the same bribes in a US court in 2009, and agreed to pay a $382 million fine. The Nigerian charges appear to stem from the US case — though, in that trial, Cheney was never directly charged.
The $250 million figure would include a direct $130 million fine by the company and an agreement to repatriate another $120 million from Switzerland.
Representatives for Cheney and Halliburton met with Nigerian officials in London over the weekend.
In the United States, KBR has already admitted bribing Nigerian officials. In February 2009, the company agreed to pay a $402 million fine. Halliburton itself paid $177 million to settle allegations paid to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but didn’t admit wrongdoing. Still, despite the settlements, Halliburton’s spokeswoman said “there is no legal basis for the charges” in a statement Dec. 8.
Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission spokesman Femi Babafemi told Reuters the company had offered to pay 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 added.
Earlier this month, Halliburton said they hadn’t seen the new charges, but still denied their involvement.
“Halliburton’s oil-field services operations in Nigeria have never in any way been part of the LNG project and none of the Halliburton employees have ever had any connection to or participation in that project,” Tara Mullee Agard, a spokeswoman for the Houston-based company, said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg.
Cheney led Halliburton as CEO and Chairman of the Board from 1995 to 2000.
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”.
Notes Bloomberg, “An aide of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was charged with six counts of money-laundering in Abuja on Oct. 13 in connection with the alleged payment of bribes.”
“The case is Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Halliburton and others, CV/435/10, High Court of Justice, Abuja Judicial Division (Abuja).”
With earlier reporting by Daniel Tencer.
Correction: Charges were filed against Halliburton and former Vice President Cheney last week, not this week.