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US holds on $917m Nigeria Bribe money

By Ejiofor Alike with agency report,

The United States justice department is holding on to least $917 million settlement comprising $338 million from French Engineering major Technip and $579 million from Kellogg Brown and Root LLC (KBR) over the $6 billion Nigeria Liquiefied Natural Gas (NLNG) contract.

Eni, Snamprogetti’s parent company at the time, has also put aside $307 million for a potential future settlement, bringing the total to over $1.2 billion, which Nigeria may have lost to bribes. Unlike the late General Sani Abacha loot, where Switzerland repatriated $505 million stolen by the late ruler, the US would keep all the settlement money in respect of the NLNG contract scandal.

The repatriated $505 million stolen by the late head of state were returned in tranches of $461.3 million and $44.1 million.
The Halliburton bribery scandal had dated back to 1994 when bids were submitted to build the NLNG plant at a cost of $6 billion.

A joint venture company (TSKJ) between Technip, an Italian engineering company, Snamprogetti; a US engineering company, KBR, of the Halliburton group; and the Japanese engineering and construction company (JGC) was formed to bid for the contract.

After TSKJ was formed, it set up three companies registered in Madeira, Portugal to recruit two “consulting companies,” Tri-Star Investment Ltd, and Marubeni Incorporated, with the alleged mandate to bribe Nigerian “officials of the executive branch of government, NNPC and NLNG officials, and political party leaders,” according to indictment filed at the US District Court in Houston.

Techip had agreed to pay the sum of $338 to the US government for scheming to bribe Nigerian government officials in order to secure the NLNG contract.

Similarly, KBR had last year agreed to pay $579 million when it was discovered that it also bribed Nigerian officials to get contracts.

The discovery by the US government followed years of investigation into the activities of companies with subsidiaries abroad. Usually, firms that violated US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act were made to pay heavy fines as a deterrent.

Technip’s settlement would be paid as criminal penalty. The US Justice Department has also filed a deferred prosecution agreement and a criminal information resolving charges of conspiracy and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Technip will also pay $98 million to settle a related civil complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission. During the case, the court heard how the company hired two agents to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials.

Up till now, the real identities of all the Nigerian government officials that received the bribes in respect of the contract have not been officially released.

Nigerians indicted by the probe committee set up by the Federal Government and headed by the former Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro are yet to be named and prosecuted.But US had also jailed some top officials of the firm involved in the scandal.