Nigeria's government summons Halliburton CEO in bribe probe
2 Sept. 2004
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- Halliburton's CEO, David Lesar, has been summoned by Nigeria's parliament to respond to allegations that his company bribed government officials during the period when Vice President Dick Cheney headed the company, the London-based newsletter Africa Confidential reported. Nigeria's House of Representatives voted yesterday to summon Mr. Lesar and to ban Halliburton from any new contracts. The vote was unanimous.###
The Nigerian parliament also issued a report accusing Halliburton of playing "hide-and-seek games" with investigators. Halliburton may have good reason not to fully cooperate because a judge in France, who has been investigating the bribery scandal for two years, has discretion to prosecute Vice President Cheney and David Lesar even if they had no knowledge of the bribery scheme. According to the Dallas Morning News, French law allows for the prosecution of CEOs for bribes made by employees, even if the CEO had no knowledge of the bribes. Although Cheney is not currently being investigated, his involvement is still unclear and the French judge has signaled his desire to at least subpoena Cheney as a witness.
The bribes reportedly totalled $180 million and were allegedly financed by a consortium of four companies, known as TSKJ, of which Halliburton's KBR subsidiary is the leading member. The purpose of the bribes was to win an $8.1 billion contract to build and expand a natural gas liquefaction plant on Nigeria's Bonny Island. The firms were successful in winning the contract during the mid-1990s and construction and expansion of the plant continues today. The bribes were allegedly paid between 1995 and 2002.
Investigators in Nigeria, France and the United States are examining whether TSKJ, led by Halliburton since 1998, set up companies in Madeira, Portugal (notably Tri-Star Investments), to divert commissions to London lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler, so that he could pass the money as bribes to Nigerian politicians and businessmen. Tesler has denied making improper payments or bribes to anyone.
According to Africa Confidential, Tesler's Tri-Star made payments to individuals and companies that include "Hemipshere Services (sic), Teldore Investments and I. Nayim, who is alleged to have received several payments through Union Bancaire Privée accounts in London and Geneva." The newsletter further reported that, "Papers submitted by Tesler to the French Judge Rénaud van Ruymbeke show that he was able to buy an oil prospecting block for US$8 mn. from Sherwood Petroleum in February 1999, just prior to the national elections which returned Nigeria to civil rule under President Obasanjo. When the Obasanjo government took power on 31 May 1999, it took back the oil block from Tesler and sold it to Ocean Energy for $240 mn. suggesting Tesler had secured a considerable discount four months earlier."
Despite the bribery allegations, last month the corruption-plagued government of Nigeria awarded Halliburton and TSKJ another $1.6 billion contract to further expand construction of the Bonny Island plant. But that contract might be cancelled because Halliburton's CEO has been summoned to explain his role, if any, in the bribery scandal, says Africa Confidential. The final decision on whether to cancel the latest Halliburton contract rests with Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, the newsletter said.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Nigeria's investigation, Chudi Offodile, said he received a letter from a TSKJ representative who works with Shell Oil in which the consortium threatened the government with $554 million in penalties if the latest contract is cancelled.
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