Cheney to be charged in Nigeria corruption case

2010-12-03 11:48

Nigerian officials said yesterday that they would charge former US vice-president Dick Cheney over a massive bribery scandal related to his time at the helm of oil services giant Halliburton.

Halliburton unit Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) pleaded guilty last year in the US to bribing Nigerian officials to the tune of $180 million (about R1.3 billion) in return for $6 billion worth of liquefied natural gas contracts in the oil hub Bonny Island.

Halliburton denied involvement in the offences dating to between 1995 and 2005, but a top company official and other staff were summoned by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency following raids last week on company offices in Lagos.

Prosecutor Godwin Obla said joint charges would be filed by Tuesday at a high court in the capital, Abuja, against Cheney, the former and current leadership of Halliburton, and the consortium they partnered with.

“As the CEO of Halliburton, he has the responsibility for acts that occurred during that period,” said Obla, adding that Cheney would face conspiracy charges and that an arrest warrant from Interpol would be sought.

A spokesperson from the anti-graft agency, Femi Babafemi, confirmed the imminent charges, which follow an investigation into the construction of the liquefied natural gas plant in southern Nigeria.

Cheney’s lawyer in the US, Terrence O’Donnell, dismissed the allegations and issued a statement saying: “Any suggestion of misconduct on his part, made now, years later, is entirely baseless.

“The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated that joint venture extensively and found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton.”

Companies in the TSKJ consortium involved in the plant included France’s Technip, Snamprogetti (formerly a subsidiary of a company owned by Italy’s Eni), KBR and Japan’s JGC.

KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton, where Cheney served as chief executive before becoming vice-president under president George W Bush following elections in 2000.

US authorities said last year that Halliburton and KBR had agreed to pay $177 million to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US.

KBR agreed to pay a further $402 million to settle criminal charges brought by the US Justice Department.

In October, a Nigerian court charged a personal aide to former president Olusegun Obasanjo in a related probe, and earlier this week, Nigeria’s anti-corruption authorities summoned a top local official from Halliburton.

Authorities also raided Halliburton’s office in Lagos last week and detained 10 people – eight Nigerians and two expatriates – who have since been released, as investigations continue.

Officials seized documents during the raid.

Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil producers, but corruption remains deeply entrenched. Non-governmental organisations consistently rank the country as one of the world’s most corrupt.

Babafemi’s agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was established to probe corruption allegations and has carried out a series of high-profile prosecutions.

Cheney (69), one of the most powerful and controversial US vice-presidents who was a driving force behind Bush’s “war on terror”, has a long history of heart trouble and was last operated on in August.

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