April 26, 2007 / 9:39 PM / 12 years ago

UPDATE 1-Baker Hughes settles bribery probes

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HOUSTON, April 26 (Reuters) - Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. BHI.N said on Thursday it reached a $44.1 million settlement with U.S. officials related to a bribery probe of its operations in Nigeria, Angola and Kazakhstan.

The settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission resolve the investigations, made public in 2002 and 2003, into Baker Hughes’ operations those countries, the company said in a statement.

Baker Hughes paid about $5.2 million from 1998 to 2003 to agents while knowing that some of the money was intended to bribe government officials in Kazakhstan, according to a complaint by the SEC filed in U.S. District Court in Houston.

Similar payments were made to agents in Angola and Nigeria, according to the SEC.

Under the settlement, a unit of the Houston-based company pleaded guilty to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for payments made between 2001 and 2003 to a commercial agent retained in 2000 in connection with a project in Kazakhstan.

Baker Hughes said that as part of a two-year non-prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice, it agreed to hire an outside monitor to oversee its compliance activities for three years.

Baker Hughes said it has fired all employees and commercial agents it believes were directly involved.

“The acts which resulted in these enforcement actions are contrary to our core values, our policies and our expectations for ethical behavior,” Chad Deaton, Baker Hughes’ chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Earlier on Thursday, Tidewater Inc. (TDW.N), the world’s largest provider of offshore oilfield supply vessels, said it was conducting an internal investigation of its Nigerian operations. That company’s probe focuses on the legality, under the FCPA, of reimbursements made by its Nigerian affiliate to a customs agent.

Shares of Baker Hughes closed up nearly 3 percent at $80.82 on the New York Stock Exchange. Tidewater shares rose nearly 1 percent to $65.47.

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