Nigeria's anti-corruption police said today that they will charge former US vice-president Dick Cheney over a $180m bribery case involving energy firm Halliburton.The announcement follows a probe into the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in the conflict-ridden Niger Delta.
Halliburton's top official in Nigeria has been summoned and 10 of its Nigerian and expat staff detained for questioning after a raid on the company's office in Lagos. Cheney was head of Halliburton before becoming George W Bush's vice-president in 2001.
"We are filing charges against Cheney," said Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), adding that the charges were likely to be brought next week. He declined to give any further details on what the charges were or where they would be filed.
Houston-based engineering firm KBR, a former Halliburton unit, pleaded guilty last year to US charges that it paid $180m in bribes between 1994 and 2004 to Nigerian officials to secure $6bn in contracts for the Bonny Island Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in the Niger Delta.KBR and Halliburton reached a $579m settlement in America but Nigeria, France and Switzerland have conducted their own investigations into the case.
Halliburton split from KBR in 2007 and has said that its current operations in Nigeria are unrelated.It has described last week's EFCC raid as "an affront against justice", said its offices were ransacked and personnel assaulted, and pledged to defend its staff against what it said were "completely false and outrageous actions".
"As indicated in previous legal activity in the United States, one of the participants in the (Bonny Island) project was a subsidiary of Halliburton Company for part of that period of time," it said last week.
"The Halliburton oil field services operations in Nigeria have never in any way been any part of the LNG project and none of the Halliburton employees have ever had any connection to or participation in that project."
Halliburton said last year it had "reason to believe" payments may have been made to Nigerian officials by agents of its TSKJ consortium, which built the Bonny Island facility. Albert "Jack" Stanley, a former KBR chief executive officer who had worked under Cheney when he headed Halliburton, pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges stemming from a scheme to bribe Nigerian officials.
Nigeria will hold presidential elections in April and some analysts have suggested the sudden revival of interest in the Halliburton case is no coincidence.Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan faces a challenge for the ruling party nomination from former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, who was in office between 1999 and 2007. Abubakar's opponents have in the past tried to link him to the Halliburton case, allegations he has dismissed as a smear campaign.
He was quoted in September as saying there was no evidence against him and that nobody in the United States or elsewhere had sought to question him on the matter. "This is just the work of political opponents who will stop at nothing in order to destroy your political career," he said.
David Smith and Reuters
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