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Nigeria MPs seek Halliburton’s exclusion from business

Financial Times: Nigeria MPs seek Halliburton’s exclusion from business

“Nigerian, French and US investigators are probing the TSKJ case, which concerns illicit payments allegedly made in relation to a $12bn gas project jointly owned by the Nigerian government and the oil companies Royal Dutch/Shell, Total and Eni.”: “Shell denied it had colluded with either consortium and said its work as technical adviser had been “rigorous and well-documented”.

By Michael Peel and William Wallis in Lagos

Published: September 3 2004

Nigeria’s parliament has demanded that the US oil services company Halliburton be excluded from new business in the country until the end of investigations into a $180m (€148m, £100m) alleged bribery case involving one of the company’s subsidiaries.

Halliburton said yesterday it had uncovered documents indicating that members of the TSKJ consortium at the centre of the probe had considered bribing Nigerian officials, although it said the talks occurred before it became involved in the consortium in 1998 when it took over one of its members.

The Nigerian case has highlighted concerns about the practices of multinationals in less industrialised countries. It is the only one of a number of probes into Halliburton worldwide that concerns a period when the company was headed by Dick Cheney, the US vice-president.

Nigeria’s house of representatives voted late on Wednesday to accept a recommendation for the ban on Halliburton from the house public petitions committee, which began investigating the alleged bribery case in February.

The committee’s report said the ban on new contracts should extend to TSKJ and its members, which are France’s Technip, Snamprogetti of Italy, Japan’s JGC, and Kellogg, Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary.

Halliburton is Nigeria’s second-largest oil services contractor and is involved in many joint ventures in the industry. Jonathan Bearman, managing director of Clearwater Research, said eliminating Halliburton and other members of TSKJ from new business could give a near monopoly to Schlumberger, the leading services company in Nigeria.

Nigerian, French and US investigators are probing the TSKJ case, which concerns illicit payments allegedly made in relation to a $12bn gas project jointly owned by the Nigerian government and the oil companies Royal Dutch/Shell, Total and Eni.

Tri-Star Investments, a company employed by TSKJ, was allegedly used to channel the payments, although it remains unclear whether the main beneficiaries were Nigerian officials, expatriates or both.

Halliburton said the house committee’s report contained “numerous inaccuracies” and was based on second-hand information, adding that the vote was not a law but a recommendation to Nigeria’s executive.

Halliburton said members of TSKJ had considered making payments to Nigerian officials “at least 10 years ago”, although it said it had no evidence that bribes had actually been paid. It had passed on details of its findings to authorities.

It is unclear whether a ban as suggested by the house would affect TSKJ’s work on a $1.6bn plan to expand the gas project expansion announced in July.

The public petitions committee report also refers to an allegation that Shell Gas, the technical adviser instructed to judge the competency of TSKJ and a rival consortium competing for the original contract in 1994, had colluded with TSKJ and passed on details of pricing and other information. Bechtel of the US, one of the members of the losing consortium that allegedly made the claim, could not be reached for comment.

Shell denied it had colluded with either consortium and said its work as technical adviser had been “rigorous and well-documented”.

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