Executives of Shell and Halliburton Industries were arrested and held in Nigeria, as part of an investigation into bribe schemes totaling in excess of $600 million. The Nigerian “anti-corruption police,” formally their Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on November 29, took into custody employees of U.S. Oilfield service group Halliburton, and others. Applicable law stated the detainees could only be held for up to 48 hours; the employees were released just short of that figure. Those arrested included 10 Nigerian and/or relocated Halliburton staff, and one “senior employee” from each of the oil firms, Saipem Contracting, and Technip Offshore Nigeria Ltd. The Halliburton arrests were linked to a bribery case involving Halliburton former unit KBR, although the two disassociated in 2007; Halliburton has claimed no participation in the matters being investigated.
Both Halliburton and KBR were previously investigated by the US Department of Justice regarding these charges in Nigeria, and bribery scandals in other countries. KBR pleaded guilty to having paid $180m in bribes over a ten year period to Nigerian officials to obtain $6b in contracts for the Bonny Island liquefied natural gas project. KBR and Halliburton settled for $579m in the US, but other nations including Nigeria still have matters pending; France and Switzerland are among interested parties.
Former US Vice-president Cheney reportedly is about to face investigation related to this bribery scandal stemming from his years as Halliburton’s chief executive. The Nigerian anti-fraud agency has indicated it will include Cheney in charges on these issues. KBR has already entered a guilty plea. Cheney’s attorney made the statement, “All this stuff happened well over a decade ago; let bygones be bygones!”
The travel documents of those arrested are being held; the subjects cannot leave the country. Halliburton has provided the Nicaraguan commission with a statement; Peter Robinson, a Shell Oil VP, made himself available for questioning.
Other charges include an admission by Shell to paying $2m to Nigerian subcontractors to circumvent customs, and to provide “an improper advantage” to Shell in connection with the deepwater Bonga Project. Shell separately admitted paying $2 million to Nigerian subcontractors on that project. The Shell Nicaraguan subsidy may have conspired to violate anti-bribery and books and records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; the Securities and Exchange Commission said Shell profited some $14m as a result of these payments.
Among those having agreed to comply with findings is Panalpina; Panalpina Welttransport Holding, a Swiss freight company had until 2007 a reputation for tolerance of bribery, and a “culture of corruption.” Panalpina, Shell, and five oil service companies on or about November 4 agreed to pay $236.5m to resolve a US probe of multi-national bribery, this according to The US Justice Department. It is alleged that Panalpina worked with oil and gas companies to illegally move rigs, ships, and equipment; Shell Oil Nigerian employees are thought to have requested Panalpina to provide false invoices to hide bribes. Insiders say that Panalpina used “distinctive packaging” to convey to Nigerian customs official the payloads of bribed shipments. Thus the materials were moved through customs without required paperwork.