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Paris, January 10 (RHC) - Though neglected by major media in the United States, international news sources have reported that French law enforcement authorities have made US Vice President Dick Cheney the target of a criminal investigation for his role in a massive bribery scandal during his time as chief executive at the Halliburton firm. Le Figaro, one of France's biggest and most conservative newspapers, recently reported that "an investigative judge is looking into allegations of corruption during construction of a natural gas complex in Nigeria by Halliburton" and a French oil company.
According to a gas and oil trade publication, picked up by the international Associated Press newswire last October 11, the judge is "looking into who may have benefited from nearly 200 million dollars in potentially illegal commissions allegedly handed out from 1990 to 2002." In May, Halliburton admitted that, under Cheney's stewardship, it paid "2.4 million dollars in bribes to Nigerian officials to get favorable tax treatment." The London Financial Times reported that the investigation specifically focuses on the criminal charges of "misuse of corporate funds" and "corruption of foreign public agents."
The Sydney Australia Morning Herald reported that the investigative judge is specifically targeting Cheney for his "alleged complicity in the abuse of corporate assets." Though the investigation is being spearheaded by French law enforcement, the British news daily The Guardian has noted that it would be prosecuted under international laws agreed to by the United States in a 35-nation treaty signed in 1997, meaning the consequences could be very real.
The treaty, "under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, aims to fight corporate attempts to buy the favors of public authorities abroad." Not coincidentally, the London Financial Times pointed out that the Bush Administration is using similar agreements to aggressively "seek the extradition and pressing claims against senior French finance industry executives connected with the Credit Lyonnais purchase of Executive Life, the failed Californian insurer.
AFX News Limited AFX.COM
February 5, 2004
U.S. joins bribery investigation into Halliburton
The Justice Department is investigating allegations that Halliburton participated in a scheme to bribe Nigerian officials in the mid- to late 1990s when Vice President Dick Cheney was its chief executive.
There is no evidence that Cheney is involved, the Justice Department told Newsweek in an online story published Wednesday. The case has been under investigation by a French magistrate for months to determine if the $180 million in payments by the consortium building a liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria constitute illegal kickbacks under an international anticorruption treaty. Bribing a foreign official has been against U.S. law for 25 years. Last month, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported that the magistrate wanted Cheney's testimony, even it if meant subpoenaing him.
An indictment of the vice president was not out of the question, according to the paper. On Jan. 23, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the Justice Department and the SEC had requested a "report" from the company on the matter. "If illegal payments were made, this matter could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations," the company said in the filing. However, according to Newsweek, U.S. government investigators have asked for and received documents from the company. Newsweek quoted a Justice Department official as saying Halliburton's statement that only a "report" had been requested was "not accurate." A Halliburton spokeswoman told Newsweek that it would be more careful in its wording of SEC filings in the future. It is not known whether Attorney General John Ashcroft has participated in any decisions about the Halliburton probe, Newsweek reported. In a separate matter,
Ashcroft has recused himself from any role in the federal investigation of the Bush administration about the leak of the name of a Central Intelligence Agency employee. Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root is a 25 percent owner and lead partner of the consortium that built the Nigeria plant. The other partners in the joint venture are Technip SA of France, ENI of Italy and Japan Gasoline Corp. According to press reports, the allegations center on an elaborate scheme to funnel payments from the consortium to a shell company in Madeira and then to bank accounts in Gibraltar, Monaco and Switzerland. It is alleged that the funds went to Gen. Sani Abacha, the Nigerian dictator who died of a heart attack in 1998. The lawyer who handled the money had worked for both Halliburton and Abacha. Last year, Halliburton acknowledged it had paid $2.4 million in bribes to a Nigerian tax official to get favorable treatment in 2001 and 2002, after Cheney left the company. Halliburton fired several lower-level employees and said no senior employees were involved.
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