Friday, January 14, 2011

Nigeria Arrests 12 in $100 Million Oil Bribery Probe

Nigerian investigators arrested 12 oil-industry employees, including representatives of Transocean Ltd. and Noble Corp., as part of a probe into a $100 million bribery scheme.

The individuals were arrested on suspicion of “offering bribes worth $100 million to some Nigerian officials,” the West African nation’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said today in an e-mailed statement.

Two employees of Transocean, the world’s largest offshore oil driller, have been released, said Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for the Vernier, Switzerland-based company. Four Noble workers who were among the detained have since been released, John Breed, a spokesman for the Geneva-based company said.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, has been investigating bribery allegations against Swiss, U.S., French, Italian and Japanese companies involved in the nation’s $62 billion petroleum industry. Halliburton Co., Technip SA, Snamprogetti SpA are among the companies that last month agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars each to settle bribery claims.

“We’re in contact with the Nigerian authorities and are cooperating with them,” Cantwell said today in a telephone interview from Houston.

Last year, Noble agreed to pay $2.6 million in fines and $5.6 million in interest to settle a U.S. government investigation into reimbursement payments made in Nigeria. The probe stemmed from a May 2007 report by the company to the Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that improper payments may have been made on its behalf by a customs agent in securing permits for drilling rigs in Nigeria.

--With assistance from Elisha Bala-Gbogbo in Abuja. Editors: Bill Banker, Charles Siler

To contact the reporters on this story: Joe Carroll in Chicago at; David Wethe in Houston at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at

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