Former US vice president Cheney to be charged in Nigeria corruption case
LAGOS: Nigerian officials have said they will charge former US vice president Dick Cheney over a massive bribery scandal related to his time at the helm of oil services giant Halliburton. Halliburton unit KBR pleaded guilty last year in the US to bribing Nigerian officials to the tune of 180 million dollars in return for six billion dollars worth of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) contracts in the oil hub Bonny Island.
Halliburton denied involvement in the offences dating back to 1995-2005, but a top company official and other staff were summoned by Nigeria's anti-graft agency following raids last week on company offices in Lagos.
Prosecutor Godwin Obla said joint charges would be filed by Tuesday at a high court in the capital Abuja against Cheney, the former and current leadership of Halliburton, and the consortium they partnered with. "As the CEO of Halliburton, he has the responsibility for acts that occurred during that period," Obla told AFP, adding that Cheney would face conspiracy charges and an arrest warrent from Interpol would be sought.
A spokesman from the anti-graft agency, Femi Babafemi, confirmed the imminent charges, which follow an investigation into the construction of the LNG plant in southern Nigeria.
Cheney's lawyer in the United States, Terrence O'Donnell, dismissed the allegations and issued a statement saying: "Any suggestion of misconduct on his part, made now, years later, is entirely baseless. "The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated that joint venture extensively and found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton," it said.
Companies in the TSKJ consortium involved in the plant included France's Technip, Snamprogetti (formerly a subsidiary of a company owned by Italy's Eni), Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), and Japan's JGC.
KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton, where Cheney served as CEO before becoming vice president under George W. Bush following elections in 2000. US authorities said last year that Halliburton and KBR had agreed to pay 177 million dollars to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States. KBR agreed to pay a further 402 million dollars to settle criminal charges brought by the US Justice Department.
In October, a Nigerian court charged a personal aide to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo in a related probe, and earlier this week, Nigeria's anti-corruption authorities summoned a top local official from Halliburton.
Authorities also raided Halliburton's office in Lagos last week and detained 10 people-eight Nigerians and two expatriates-who have since been released, as investigations continue. Officials seized documents during the raid.
Nigeria is one of the world's largest oil producers, but corruption remains deeply entrenched. Non-governmental organisations consistently rank the country as one of the world's most corrupt.
Babafemi's agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was established to probe corruption allegations and has carried out a series of high-profile prosecutions. Cheney, 69, one of most powerful and controversial US vice presidents, who was a driving force behind Bush's "war on terror," has a long history of heart trouble and was last operated on in August. -Afp
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