- Category: Politics
- Published on Wednesday, 22 December 2010 04:55
- Written by The Nation
- Hits: 1607
The plea bargain being negotiated over the $180millon Halliburton bribery scam entered a crucial stage yesterday, with the payment of $130million fines by four of the 15 accused persons and institutions on trial.
The suspects that paid the fines are Halliburton ($35million); ENI ($32.5million); Technip ($30million) and Gasoline Corporation of Japan ($30million).
Halliburton paid its $35million fine to a dedicated account of the Federal Government yesterday. ENI handed its cheque to the government on Monday.
The fines were agreed upon at a meeting in London about two weeks ago between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel (representing the Federal Government) and the representatives of the companies.
Those who represented the government were Damian Dodo (SAN), Godwin Obla and EFCC Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Akomaye.
A highly-placed source, who pleaded not to be named, said: “Based on the agreement reached in London, the affected companies have paid the fines.
“As part of the plea bargaining, we have dropped charges against the companies. Charges have also been dropped against a former Vice-President of the United States, Mr. Dick Cheney.
“This is a rare feat that the government has achieved in the history of anti-corruption in Nigeria, having so far recovered more than $130million out of the $180million bribe sum. You will recall that Julius Berger Plc had paid a fine of N29billion. The construction giant was the first to enter into a plea bargain.
“We opted for plea bargain because if the firms had gone through the legal battle, the penalties in our law only make provision for an imprisonment for two years with an option of N250, 000 fine upon conviction.”
Despite the payment of the fines, the EFCC is set to arraign six Nigerian suspects and firms implicated in the scandal.
They will face a nine-count charge.
EFCC spokesman, Femi Babafemi confirmed the payment of the fines by the four companies.
He said: “The payment is part of the terms of the plea bargaining.”
The $180million bribery scandal involved the former Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), in respect of the nation’s Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Bonny.
Albert J. Stanley admitted before a Houston court in the US on September 4, 2008 that he orchestrated more than $180million in bribe to senior government officials.
Stanley alleged that the bribe was channeled through a UK lawyer, Mr. Jeffery Tesler, in four instalments of $60million; $32.5million; $51million and $23million.
The bribe was allegedly facilitated between 1995 and 2005 in London.
The countries where the bribe money was allegedly stashed by some top government officials and their accomplices are: France, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Portugal and Seychelles.
This is the third attempt at probing those who benefited from the N21billion bribe. The House of Representatives raised a Committee, headed by Mr. Chudi Offodile, to investigate the alleged bribery.
But a breakthrough was recorded by a former Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, when he sent an Interim Report to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
On February 20, 2008, a Progress Report was sent to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua by the EFCC.
Upon taking over as the EFCC chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri sent a team of operatives to many countries.
The cumulative reports prompted the constitution of a Special Investigative Panel headed by a former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro to identify those behind the scandal and bring them to justice.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), however, accelerated the plea bargaining initiated by some of the indicted foreign firms.