For­mer US vice pres­i­dent Cheney to be charged in Nige­ria cor­rup­tion case

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

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

DA­M­AS­CUS: Syria's Oil Min­is­ter Su­fian Alao (L) meets Venezue­lan Min­is­ter of En­ergy Rafael Ramirez. Syria and Venezuela an­nounced that they will start stud­ies about the Forok­los oil re­fin­ery (in mid­dle Syria) that is to set up along with Iran and Malaysia. -Reuters

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