Nigeria ‘to charge Dick Cheney’ in alleged bribery case

Nigerian authorities plan to file charges against ex-US vice president Dick Cheney over a bribery scandal allegedly involving energy firm Halliburton, a spokesman for the anti-graft agency said.

Asked whether Cheney would be charged over the investigation into construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in southern Nigeria, Femi Babafemi said, “it’s true … definitely.” The spokesman could not give details on the charges that he says are likely to be filed next week, but said “they are not unconnected to his role as the chief executive of Halliburton.” A prosecutor on the case said joint charges would be filed against Cheney along with the former and current leadership of Halliburton and others.

Officials from companies in a consortium involved in the LNG plant would also be included in the charges to be “placed before the court at the latest by Tuesday of next week,” said Godwin Obla.

The charges are to be filed at the high court in the capital Abuja, he said.

Cheney would face conspiracy charges and a Nigerian judge would be asked to issue an arrest warrant for him that would be transmitted to Interpol, said Obla.

“As the CEO of Halliburton, he has the responsibility for acts that occurred during that period,” Obla told AFP.

Halliburton’s office in Lagos refused comment and Cheney representatives could not immediately be reached.

Companies in the TSKJ consortium involved in the plant included France’s Technip, Snamprogetti (formerly a subsidiary of a company owned by Italy’s Eni), Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), and Japan’s JGC.

KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton, where Cheney served as CEO before becoming vice president under George W. Bush following elections in 2000.

The LNG case involves an alleged 182 million dollar cash-for-contract scandal over 10 years until 2005 over construction of the LNG plant in southern Nigeria. Halliburton has denied involvement in the allegations.

US authorities said last year that Halliburton and KBR had agreed to pay 177 million dollars to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States.

KBR agreed to pay a further 402 million dollars to settle criminal charges brought by the US Justice Department.

In October, a Nigerian court charged a personal aide to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo in a related probe.

Earlier this week, Nigerian anti-corruption authorities summoned a top local official from Halliburton as part of the investigation.

Authorities also raided Halliburton’s office in Lagos last week and detained 10 people — eight Nigerians and two expatriates — who have since been released as investigations continue. Documents were taken as well.

Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil producers, but corruption remains deeply entrenched. Non-governmental organisations consistently rank the country as one of the world’s most corrupt.

Babafemi’s agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was established to probe corruption allegations and has carried out a series of high-profile prosecutions.

Cheney was one of the United States’ most powerful and controversial vice presidents, as well as a driving force behind Bush’s “war on terror.” He has struggled with a series of health problems related to heart ailments.