Nigeria to prosecute officials in KBR bribery case

Nigeria’s Justice Minister said on Thursday it will prosecute any Nigerian official found to have taken bribes from former Halliburton Co unit KBR Inc in a decade-long scheme to secure US$6 billion in contracts.

KBR, the former engineering subsidiary of Halliburton, pleaded guilty in February to charges it paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials, Reuters reports.

Justice Minister Michael Aondoakaa said he will ask President Umaru Yar’Adua to form a special federal committee of officials from security and anti-graft agencies to investigate the bribery accusations.

“We are going to constitute a committee … that will be charged with the responsibility of gathering information,” Aondoakaa told reporters.

“If the quality of information we receive internally is sufficient for us to commence prosecution, we will commence prosecution,” he added.

The committee will include representatives from the police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Intelligence Agency and the State Security Service.

KBR admitted at a court in Houston in February to paying bribes to high-ranking Nigerian officials between 1994 and 2004 to secure four contracts for a KBR joint venture to build and expand Nigeria’s Bonny Island liquefied natural gas terminal.

The charges against KBR include allegations that senior executives met with “three successive holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the government of Nigeria” and negotiated the amount of bribes to be paid.

The period covered by the charges fall under the administration of former military ruler Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Olusegun Obasanjo.

Nigeria has asked the United States for the names of the Nigerian officials accused of taking the bribes.

“This process depends on the cooperation we have from the U.S. government,” Aondoakaa said.

Albert “Jack” Stanley, a former KBR chief executive, pleaded guilty last September to charges stemming from the Nigeria bribes and agreed to cooperate with U.S. investigators.

Aondoakaa said Stanley has also agreed to help Nigerian officials.