Looks like scams in Nigeria aren’t limited to Internet hoaxes.
The government’s top contractor in Iraq, KBR, Inc., has pleaded guilty to bribing high-level officials in the Nigerian government during a decade-long scheme to win more than $6 billion in overseas construction contracts, federal authorities announced on Wednesday.
KBR and its former parent company, Halliburton, agreed to pay the government a combined $579 million in fines to settle the criminal and civil charges, the most ever paid by a U.S. firm in a foreign corruption case.
“Today’s guilty plea by KBR ends one chapter in the department’s long-running investigation of corruption in the award of $6 billion in construction contracts in Nigeria,” said Rita Glavin, acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s criminal division. “This bribery scheme involved both senior foreign government officials and KBR corporate executives who took actions to insulate themselves from the reach of U.S. law enforcement.”
KBR was part of a joint venture of four companies — the other three firms involved were not identified — that was awarded four contracts between 1995 and 2004 to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, on Africa’s West Coast.
During that time, federal officials said the joint venture paid top officials in the Nigerian government, including members of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, more than $182 million in bribes.
If this story had come out during 2000 or 2004, the Democrats would have hammered Dick Cheney relentlessly for it, since this happened during his tenure as CEO from 1995 to 2000. The Government Executive story does not mention Cheney, nor does the 51-page plea agreement filed in a Houston federal court, and make no accusations of wrongdoing on his part. Bart Gellman in his exhaustively researched and well written Cheney biography Angler found no evidence that he ever used his position as vice president to benefit Halliburton, which for years was practically the left’s equivalent of the Saddam Hussein-Al Qaeda connection.
Still, both KBR and Halliburton have taken a PR beating in recent years, between this and allegations of overbilling and lousy services in Iraq. Having to pay a $679 million settlement to the Justice Department during these tough economic times cannot be fun for the board or the shareholders.