Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nigeria mulls $250 mln deal to drop Cheney charges


LAGOS — Nigeria has negotiated a 250 million dollar settlement deal that would see it drop charges against US ex-vice president Dick Cheney and others over a bribery scandal, an official said Tuesday.

The deal reached by officials from Nigeria and energy firm Halliburton, Cheney's former company, must still be approved by the West African country's government, said Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for the anti-graft agency.

"The attorney general of the federation will have to ratify that on behalf of the federal government," he said, adding that a decision would come before the end of the week. The money would be paid "in lieu of prosecution."

Officials told AFP on Monday that the Nigerian government would consider a settlement deal in the case following weekend negotiations in London.

The London talks came after Nigerian authorities charged Cheney and others last week over a bribery scandal linked to construction of a liquefied natural gas plant. Cheney was head of Halliburton before becoming US vice president following 2000 elections.

Babafemi said the 250 million would include some 130 million currently frozen in Switzerland, with the rest paid in fines.

A source close to the case speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the 250 million total amount, but said 100 million was in Switzerland, while a further 30 million dollars was in Monaco.

Those sums had been paid to an intermediary, but were never passed on as part of the bribery scheme, according to the source.

The case involves an alleged 182 million dollar cash-for-contract scandal over 10 years until 2005 over construction of the liquefied natural gas plant in southern Nigeria.

Others charged included Halliburton CEO David Lesar, as well as Halliburton Inc., its former subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), former KBR head Albert "Jack" Stanley and that firm's current leader William Utt.

Halliburton declined comment, but has previously denied involvement in the allegations. A spokesman for Cheney has dismissed the accusations against him as baseless.

The consortium involved in the gas plant, TSKJ, was also charged. Companies in TSKJ included France's Technip, Snamprogetti (formerly a subsidiary of a company owned by Italy's Eni), KBR and Japan's JGC.

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 over the scandal.

KBR agreed to pay a further 402 million dollars to settle criminal charges brought by the US Justice Department.

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