NIGERIA: Ex-Halliburton unit in bribery probe

Publisher Name: 
The Financial Times

US anti-bribery investigators are targeting a former Halliburton subsidiary over its work on a key Royal Dutch Shell project in Nigeria, widening a corruption probe into the country's troubled oil industry.

The
US investigation into Halliburton's Nigerian operations - which covers
a period when it was headed by Dick Cheney, US vice-president - has
uncovered evidence of bribery and is now looking at a range of payments
made in a number of countries over the past 20 years, according to the
company.

The
developments highlight the growing problems the investigation is
creating for Halliburton and the western multinationals it has worked
for in a nation whose oil industry is plagued by production disruptions
and is the focus of increasing competition from Chinese companies.

The
US authorities say they have evidence that an agent used by
Halliburton's former KBR subsidiary made payments to Nigerian officials
in connection with the Shell project, according to a filing made by
Halliburton to the US Securities and Exchange Commission at the end of
last month. Halliburton and KBR have suspended the agent and another
agent who had worked for KBR on "several current projects and on
numerous older projects going back to the early 1980s", the filing says.

Shell
said it was aware of the Halliburton filing and was "looking into the
matter". Ann Pickard, regional executive vice-president for Shell in
Africa, told the Financial Times it was the company's policy to
co-operate with requests for information from government investigators,
although she had no knowledge of any possible inquiry relating to the
EA project.

The EA oil and gas field began operations in 2002
using a giant production and storage vessel known as the Sea Eagle,
whose 170,000 barrel-a-day capacity is vital to Shell as its Nigerian
production has been heavily disrupted by armed militants.

The US
investigation relating to the EA field is an offshoot of ongoing
criminal and civil probes into allegations that KBR and its partners in
a consortium known as TSKJ agreed to pay more than $170m of bribes to
win billions of dollars of construction work on a giant Nigerian gas
liquefaction plant also operated by Shell.

According to hundreds
of pages of handwritten notes compiled by a TSKJ agent - divulged to
investigators by Halliburton and detailed in next week's issue of
Africa Confidential magazine - members of the consortium discussed the
allocation of money for "culture" and debated the merits of making
"secret" and "open" payments to agents.

The latest Halliburton
filing says investigators have confirmed they have evidence that TSKJ
agents made payments to Nigerian officials. Halliburton declined to
comment. The company, which was headed by Mr Cheney between 1995 and
2000, acquired KBR in 1998 and sold it last year.

AMP Section Name:Halliburton
  • 185 Corruption
  • 190 Natural Resources