Nigeria graft agency charges Cheney, Halliburton boss
LAGOS (Reuters) - 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 outrageous actions".
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 and 2007.
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.