Thursday, September 02, 2004

Halliburton - The Nigerian Connection

This has got to be the most underplayed story in the blogosphere over the last year; why hasn't it been able to get any traction even in the most anti-Bush quarters? One would think people who claim to loathe Halliburton would jump at a bona fide story about corruption when the opportunity arises, but no ...

Halliburton Co. said an internal investigation has uncovered documents indicating officials of a consortium it now leads discussed bribing public officials in Nigeria in order to secure a multibillion-dollar contract there.

The investigation centers on the construction of a gargantuan natural-gas liquefaction plant on the Nigerian coast, beginning in January 1996 and continuing today. A consortium led by a company later acquired by Halliburton won the lucrative contract, which will be valued at a total of $8.1 billion when the project is completed.

In the past 10 days, Halliburton says, its lawyers discovered notes written between 1993 and 1998 that suggest consortium executives discussed bribes to Nigerian officials to win their support and ensure that the consortium won the contract. Halliburton says it has turned over the evidence to investigators in the U.S., France and Nigeria, who already had been investigating the consortium. Halliburton declined to reveal the names and positions of the people who discussed the bribery scheme.

[............]

The documents, described as contemporaneous notes of conversations and meetings, indicate "people may at the time have been planning or contemplating the necessity of money for the purpose of making bribes. There is no way to read these materials and not be concerned about that," says James Doty, an attorney with Baker Botts LLP, an outside law firm brought in by Halliburton this year to examine the matter.

The notes end in 1998, shortly after Halliburton acquired Dresser Industries Inc., which led the consortium through its M.W. Kellogg Co. unit. The consortium, called TSKJ, also includes France's Technip SA, the Snamprogetti unit of Italy's ENI SpA, andJGC Corp. of Japan.

The merger was overseen by Halliburton's then-chief executive, Dick Cheney, now the nation's vice president. There is no indication that Mr. Cheney knew of the improper activity, according to company officials. (emphasis added)
They would say that, wouldn't they? How could a chief executive of a company like Halliburton not have known about $140 million in bribe money being paid to top Nigerian politicians? At worst, the claim of ignorance is an outright lie, and at best it says that Cheney was in flagrant dereliction of his duty as CEO, an ominous thing to learn given the current administration's pitch for re-election, based as it is on alertness amidst insecurity.