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Nigeria asks U.S. for names in KBR bribery case

ABUJA, April 8 (Reuters) - Nigeria has asked the United States for the names of Nigerian officials accused of taking bribes from former Halliburton Co HAL.N unit KBR Inc with a view to prosecuting them, the government said on Wednesday.

KBR KBR.N, the former engineering subsidiary of Halliburton, pleaded guilty in February to charges it paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in a decade-long scheme to secure $6 billion in contracts.

Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili said the Nigerian authorities had asked the U.S. government to release information that may enable them to prosecute the Nigerian officials involved in their home country.

“The judgment on the case in the United States is under seal ... so you can’t get the names of those Nigerians involved unless the U.S. government releases it,” she told reporters in the capital Abuja.

“This can be done when you go to the U.S. government requesting formally that it should be released to you, and this is what we have done,” she said.

KBR admitted at a court in Houston in February to paying bribes to high-ranking Nigerian officials between 1994 and 2004 to secure four contracts for a KBR joint venture to build and expand Nigeria’s Bonny Island liquefied natural gas terminal.

The charges against KBR include allegations that senior executives met with “three successive holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the government of Nigeria” and negotiated the amount of bribes to be paid.

The period covered by the charges fall under the administrations of former military ruler Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Olusegun Obasanjo.

“We want to have information authenticated by the U.S. government and the U.S. government has been very friendly with us in this case,” Akunyili said.

“When a crime is committed, whoever is involved will be prosecuted,” she added.

Under a deal reached with the U.S. Justice Department, Houston-based KBR and Halliburton is to pay a $402 million fine, of which Halliburton has agreed to pay $382 million.

In a separate settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Halliburton will disgorge $177 million in profits to settle parallel criminal charges that its former subsidiary violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Together, the $579 million in sanctions is the highest combined settlement ever paid by U.S. companies under the act, the SEC has said.

Albert “Jack” Stanley, a former KBR chief executive, pleaded guilty last September to charges stemming from the Nigeria bribes and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Stanley, who had worked under former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney when he headed Halliburton, will be sentenced on May 6. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ ) (Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Randy Fabi, Gary Hill)

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