sharing in governance of extractive industries
By Alexandra Mede (Abuja) and Adeola Yusuf (Lagos)
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commi ssion (EFCC) on Tuesday filed charges against former United States Vice President, Dick Cheney, despite the report by Daily Independent the previous day that Washington is unlikely to release him to face trial in Nigeria. Eight others are billed to stand trial with him.
Sixteen counts were filed against Cheney and the others at the Abuja High Court over their alleged role in the $180 million Halliburton bribery scandal.
Among the eight others are Halliburton Incorporated, Halliburton Nigeria, Kellogs, Brown & Root (KBR), and Albert Jack Stanley, KBR Chairman.
William Utt, David Lesar, TSKJ Nigeria, and TSKJ Consortium are also to stand trial in the alleged scam involving construction of a liquefied natural gas plant on Bonny Island, Rivers State.
The EFCC had on December 2 said it was preparing charges against Cheney, who was Halliburton Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from 1995 to 2000.
He became Vice President to former President George W. Bush in 2001.
The EFCC had also summoned top local officials from Halliburton as part of investigation, after raiding the Lagos office of the company.
It seized documents and detained the Managing Director.
However, the U.S authorities said on Monday they would not release Cheney, who is protected round the clock by the Secret Service.
“We have received requests from Nigeria but the current administration will not send a former American Vice President to a foreign country for trial,” a top U.S. administration official told Daily Independent in Washington.
EFCC Spokesman Femi Babafemi confirmed the filing of the 16 charges, but declined comment on the next step the Commission will take if Washington refuses to extradite Cheney to Nigeria for trial.
What is also known, however, is that the EFCC is negotiating with Technip SA of France, Eni SpA of Italy, and JGC Corporation of Japan to settle out of court.
“Talks are ongoing and we hope to reach a settlement very soon, once the amount has been agreed by the parties,” EFCC prosecuting counsel, Godwin Obla, disclosed in an interview at his office in Abuja.
Nigeria wants at least $150 million from each of the companies, and “We think that’s only fair,” Obla maintained.
The EFCC is investigating a group of companies known as TSKJ, which included Paris-based Technip; Snamprogetti SpA, a unit of Rome-based Eni; KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary, and JGC in Tokyo, for allegedly paying $180 million as bribes to officials between 1994 and 2004 to win a $6 billion liquefied natural gas plant contract.
An aide of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was charged with six counts of money-laundering in Abuja on October 13 in connection with the alleged payment of bribes.
Prosecutors could not reach an understanding for talks with Halliburton and KBR, Obla added.
“We have been co-operating with the EFCC and have no additional comments,” Christophe Belorgeot, a Technip Spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday.
But the EFCC is satisfied with “the explanations and documentation provided by Eni,” according to Gianni Di Giovanni, the company’s Spokesman.
Giovanni did not give details.
No one answered phone calls to JGC’s office in Tokyo outside normal business hours.
Technip took a charge of 245 million euros ($342 million) related to its stake in TSKJ and discussed “resolution of all potential claims” with the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Technip confirmed on February 12.
KBR and Halliburton agreed to pay $579 million in February last year in a similar deal.
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