Monday, November 13, 2006
HALLIBURTON; The Hand that rocks corruption.
Feds stall Halliburton bribe probe (bribes paid when Cheney was C.E.O)
2 Nov. 2006
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- The Bush administration has successfully stalled a federal investigation into alleged bribes that were paid by Halliburton when Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO, a company filing released Tuesday shows.
Investigators think the bribes -- totaling $180 million -- were paid to officials in the government of Nigeria for the purpose of winning a multi-billion dollar construction contract.
Halliburton's lawyer, James Doty, admitted in 2004 that executives with the company "may" have been part of the bribe scheme.
Bribing foreign governments is a criminal offense under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened an investigation into the matter almost 900 days ago and in September it officially asked Halliburton for permission to delay the case further. The delay would give both the SEC and Halliburton more time to investigate without being terminated by the statute of limitations - generally five years for such investigations. Tuesday's filing shows Halliburton agreed to the request.
The U.S. Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation into the matter for over two years without resolution.
The scandal was first disclosed in 2003 by a disgruntled executive with a French company working with Halliburton's KBR subsidiary in Nigeria.
French Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke initiated an investigation after discovering millions in suspicious payments made to Nigerian officials by a partnership controlled by Halliburton/KBR, Technip of France, Italy's Snamprogetti and Japan Gasoline Corp. Each company holds a 25 percent stake in the partnership, known as "TSKJ."
Nigeria ultimately awarded the construction contract to TSKJ in 1995, but Halliburton's role in the bribery scheme began in 1998 when KBR became one of the four partners in the venture.
Doty, Halliburton's lawyer, told the Wall Street Journal that he uncovered notes from meetings that suggest employees of TSKJ "may" 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," he said. The notes were written between 1993 and 1998, prior to KBR's involvement with TSKJ, but the $180 million in bribes were paid in installments between 1995 and 2002. Cheney was CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to August 2000.
The Financial Times of London said Doty's revelation "raises questions over what Mr Cheney knew - or should have known - about one of the largest contracts awarded to a Halliburton subsidiary."
It's unclear whether Cheney is a target in the investigation or if he has testified or provided information to investigators.
In 2004, Halliburton fired the chairman of KBR, Albert Jack Stanley, after discovering he violated the company's "code of business conduct" by accepting "improper personal benefits" related to the Nigeria contract. In other words, $5 million of the bribe money was found in Stanley's personal bank account in Switzerland. The Swiss government later shut down Halliburton's bank accounts which French investigators believe were used to finance the bribes.
Stanley was personally hired by Cheney, who in 1999 was quoted as saying, "We took Jack Stanley … to head up the organization and that has helped tremendously."
The U.S. Justice Department expanded its investigation in 2004 to include whether Stanley may have received improper payments in connection with bidding practices in countries other than Nigeria. The investigation resulted in Halliburton admitting it "may have" criminally rigged bids on contracts in a number of foreign countries over the last 20 years. This new investigation is still ongoing.
A former Halliburton employee said in a filing with the SEC in September that he mistakenly received e-mails from a company attorney seeking information on how to evade federal investigators. The former employee, David A. Smith, said emails intended for David R. Smith, a vice president with Halliburton's tax group, were seeking information "on how to explain away the source of the bribes paid to Nigerian officials."
Although the scandal has received minimal attention in the U.S. media, a federal official told a French newspaper that it is "probably the most significant file of corruption" known in Washington.
Halliburton intends to sell-off its entire interest in KBR by April 2007. The U.S. military announced last summer that it would not renew the company's scandal plagued logistics contract in Iraq.