A subsidiary of Halliburton is under investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office over the US oil service company’s part in an alleged plot to pay more than $170m (£89m) of bribes to win billions of dollars of work at a giant Nigerian gas plant.
The SFO said it had carried out searches at business and residential premises as part of the probe into KBR, whose work on the project was underwritten partly by British government money.
The SFO’s action opens a fresh front in a high-profile case being investigated in the US, France and Nigeria. For part of the period under investigation, Halliburton was headed by Dick Cheney, the US vice-president.
The SFO gave few details about its probe, which it said opened in March. The searches were carried out on July 20 at three residential addresses and one company office in London, and at a house in Somerset.
Halliburton said it continued to co-operate and was “committed to getting resolution”. It declined further comment.
The Nigerian bribery allegations erupted three years ago, when a former executive of the consortium working on the gas plant told a French judge it had operated an offshore slush fund to win contracts since the mid-1990s. The consortium is quarter-owned by KBR, through its 55 per cent-controlled British joint venture, MW Kellogg.
More than $12bn has so far been invested in the gas plant, which supercools natural gas into liquid form so it can be shipped. Royal Dutch/Shell is the project’s biggest private shareholder, partnered by Total of France, Italy’s Eni and the Nigerian government.
In 2004, Halliburton severed links with two former employees including Jack Stanley, the former KBR chairman, for having taken “improper personal benefits” in connection with the project. Lee Kaplan, Mr Stanley’s lawyer, declined to comment.
■The bribery allegations centre on the construction of the Nigeria LNG natural gas liquefaction plant. The plant is 49 per cent owned by the Nigerian government, 25.6 per cent by Royal Dutch/Shell, 15 per cent by Total of France and 10.4 per cent by Italy’s Eni
What the SFO is investigating
■The SFO investigation comes after the launch of invest-
igations by a French magistrate, the US Department of Justice and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
■Investigators are looking into allegations that TSKJ, the plant’s main construction consortium for the past decade, agreed between 1994 and 2003 to pay more than $170m in bribes to win billions of dollars of building work.
■One of the consortium members is MW Kellogg, a British joint venture in which Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary has a 55 per cent stake. The other companies involved are JGC of Japan, Technip of France and Italy’s Snamprogetti
■The payments in question were made by the consortium to an offshore company controlled by Jeffrey Tesler, a London-
based lawyer, who has declined to comment. His lawyer has denied the money was used for bribes.
■The contracts are for services such as promoting the consor-
tium, advising on contractors and helping to maintain good relations with the client, government authorities and business representatives. They include a no-bribery clause
■Halliburton has severed ties with two former employees including Jack Stanley, a former KBR chairman, for allegedly receiving ‘improper personal benefit’
■Halliburton has said minutes of internal meetings show the consortium had ‘considered payments to Nigerian officials’
Get alerts on News when a new story is published