Nigeria Probes Halliburton Over Bribe Claim

February 6, 2004 by Agence France Presse

ABUJA - Nigeria has launched an investigation into claims that the US oil
services giant Halliburton paid a 180 million dollar (144 million euro)
bribe to secure a natural gas contract, officials said.

"We're very serious about corruption now. The idea is to make bribe giving
and bribe taking unprofitable, we want to stamp this out," President
Olusegun Obasanjo's spokeswoman Remi Oyo told AFP.

But while Obasanjo hopes that the probe will prove his anti-corruption
credentials, it will add to the growing pressure on US Vice President Dick
Cheney, Halliburton's former chairman.

The alleged bribe is said to have been paid in the late 1990s when
Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root was part of an international
consortium building a four billion dollar gas plant in Nigeria.

Cheney was chairman of Texas-based Halliburton from 1995 until his election
as President George W. Bush's running mate in 2000.

On Wednesday, US Justice Department officials confirmed that they had opened
their own probe into the alleged bribe, and a French investigating judge has
been investigating the deal since last year.

Oyo said that the case had been past to Nigeria's newly invigorated
anti-graft body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Obasanjo has made little headway against Nigeria's endemic corruption since
his 1999 election, but in recent months the EFCC has laid charges against a
series of high-profile officials accused of taking bribes.

Last month five officials, including three former ministers, went on trial
charged with accepting kickbacks from the French electronics giant SAGEM in
exchange for a 214 million dollar contract to supply ID cards.

And on Friday, Obasanjo sacked two former defense officials accused of
embezzling more than 800,000 dollars and handed their case to the EFCC.

Halliburton has also come under fire this year for overcharging for fuel,
food and other supplies it was contracted to send to the US troops who were
ordered into Iraq last year by Cheney's administration.

The company said last week has already repaid 6.3 million dollars following
allegations its officials took kickbacks. Reports this week said another
27.4 million dollars was paid for food that was never delivered.

The Pentagon was already investigating whether Halliburton may have
overcharged the military by 61 million dollars for fuel.