Fri, Dec 17, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Nigeria dropping Cheney charges after plea bargain

THE GUARDIAN, PORT HARCOURT, NIGERIA

Nigeria’s anti-corruption police have dropped charges against former US vice president Dick Cheney over a multimillion-dollar bribery case after the energy firm Halliburton agreed to pay up to US$250 million in fines.

The move followed the intervention of former US president George H. W. Bush and former US secretary of state James Baker, Nigerian press reports said.

The country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it met officials representing Cheney and Halliburton in London last week after filing 16-count charges relating to the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in the Niger delta.

“There was a plea bargain on the part of the company to pay US$250 million as fines in lieu of prosecution,” said Femi Babafemi, an EFCC spokesman.

The sum consists of US$120 million in penalties and the repatriation of US$130 million trapped in Switzerland, he said.

Babafemi said he expected Nigerian Attorney General Mohammed Adoke to ratify the decision yesterday.

Several Nigerian newspapers added that Bush and Baker took part in negotiations through conference calls with Adoke and other officials, but Babafemi could not confirm this.

Houston-based KBR, a former Halliburton unit, pleaded guilty last year to US charges that it paid US$180 millon in bribes between 1994 and 2004 to Nigerian officials to secure US$6 billion in contracts for the Bonny Island liquefied natural gas project in the delta.

KBR and Halliburton reached a US$579 millon settlement in the US but Nigeria, France and Switzerland have conducted their own investigations into the case.

However, rights campaigners in the Niger delta expressed disappointment at the plea bargain.

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