LAGOS - Nigeria's
anti-corruption agency filed charges against former U.S. Vice President
Dick Cheney and the head of oil services firm Halliburton Co on Tuesday
over an alleged scheme to bribe Nigerian officials.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it had
filed 16-count charges at a federal high court in Abuja against Cheney,
Halliburton Chief Executive David Lesar and two other executives, in a
case dating back to the mid-1990s.
It also filed charges against Halliburton as a company, which was once headed by Cheney, and four associated businesses.
"Charges have been filed against Dick Cheney and eight others
(individual and entities)," EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi told Reuters.
Houston-based engineering firm KBR, a former Halliburton unit,
pleaded guilty last year to U.S. charges that it paid $180 million in
bribes between 1994 and 2004 to Nigerian officials to secure $6 billion
in contracts for the Bonny Island liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in
the Niger Delta.
KBR and Halliburton reached a $579 million settlement in the
United States but Nigeria, France and Switzerland have conducted their
own investigations into the case.
Those charged in Nigeria include KBR Chief Executive Officer
William Utt, and former KBR chief executive Albert "Jack" Stanley, who
worked under Cheney when he headed Halliburton, Babafemi said.
Reading from the charge sheet, Babafemi said the executives were
accused of conspiring to make a $132 million payment "for the purpose of
the gratification of public officials".
Stanley pleaded guilty in 2008 to U.S. charges related to the case.
Halliburton split from KBR in 2007 and has said that its current
operations in Nigeria -- whose offices were raided by the EFCC last
month -- are unrelated.
It has described the EFCC raid as "an affront against justice",
said its offices were ransacked and personnel assaulted, and promised to
defend its staff against what it said were "completely false and
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.
As well as KBR, the TSKJ consortium included France's Technip SA,
Italy's Snamprogetti -- a unit of Italian oilfield services company
Saipem, whose parent company is Eni -- and Japan's JGC Corp.
Among the entities named in the Nigerian charge sheet alongside
Halliburton and KBR are Halliburton's Nigerian unit, the TSKJ consortium
and TSKJ Nigeria, Babafemi said.
Some analysts have suggested the sudden revival of interest in the Halliburton case is linked to Nigerian politics.
Nigeria will hold a presidential election in April. Incumbent
Goodluck Jonathan faces a challenge for the ruling party nomination from
former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who was in office between 1999
Abubakar's opponents have in the past tried to link him to the 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.