29 June 2010

Nigeria: Halliburton - Technip to Pay U.S.$338 Million to Settle Bribery Charges

Lagos — Global Engineering firm Technip S.A. has agreed to pay $338 million for scheming to bribe government officials in Nigeria, the United States Justice Department said yesterday.

It said the Paris-based company conducted the alleged bribery scheme to obtain more than $6 billion in contracts to build the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) in Bonny Island of Rivers State.

Technip was part of a four-company joint venture that included US firm Kellogg Brown & Root Incorporated.

The Federal Government awarded four contracts to the joint venture from 1995 to 2004.

Under the settlement, Technip has agreed to pay a $240 million criminal penalty and the Justice Department has filed a deferred prosecution agreement and a criminal information resolving charges of conspiracy and of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The company will pay $98 million to settle a related civil complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Technip authorised the hiring of two agents to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials, according to court papers in the case.

The court papers stated that a senior executive of Technip, KBR's former CEO, Albert "Jack" Stanley, and others asked public servants at critical junctures in the project to designate a representative with whom the joint venture could negotiate the payment of bribes.

The engineering subsidiary of Halliburton Co., Kellog Brown & Root (KBR) Incorporated had earlier pleaded guilty to five federal charges that it paid $180 million as bribes to some high profile officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and NLNG in respect of a contract worth $6 billion.

The administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua had said $150 million of the bribe money had been traced to an unnamed account in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Federal Government had also said it formally requested the US government to assist Nigeria by de-classifying the information of the court proceedings in the US in respect of the scandal but that government had failed to do so.

However, contrary to the repeated claims of the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, that the US had refused to release necessary information to enable the Federal Government prosecute Nigerians involved in the scam, US had insisted that it had released information needed to prosecute those indicted.

US Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, disclosed at an event organised by the Petroleum Club in Lagos that her country had not hidden any information from Nigeria on the matter.

Sanders also promised that US would be ready to assist Nigeria with more information in prosecuting those indicted in Nigeria.

US had jailed some top officials of the firm involved in the scandal, while Nigerians indicted by the probe committee set up by the Federal Government and headed by the former Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro are yet to be prosecuted.

In fact, the real identities of all the Nigerian government officials that received the bribes have not been officially released.

The origin of the bribery scandal can be traced back to 1994 when bids were submitted to build the NLNG plant at a cost of $6 billion.

A joint venture company (TSKJ), between a French engineering company, Technip; an Italian engineering company, Snamprogetti; a US engineering company, KBR, of the Halliburton group; and the Japanese engineering and construction company (JGC) was formed to bid for the contract.

After TSKJ was formed, it set up three companies registered in Madeira , Portugal to recruit two "consulting companies," Tri-Star Investment Ltd, and Marubeni Incorporated, with the alleged mandate to bribe Nigerian "officials of the executive branch of government, NNPC and NLNG officials, and political party leaders," according to indictment filed at the US District Court in Houston.

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