- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Justice Department is looking into accusations that a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. was involved in payment of $180 million in bribes to win a contract for a natural gas project in Nigeria, officials said yesterday.

The $4 billion Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Plant was built in the 1990s by a consortium that included Kellogg, Brown & Root at a time when Vice President Dick Cheney headed Halliburton.

A call to Mr. Cheney’s office seeking comment was not immediately returned last night.

Two senior Justice Department officials, speaking yesterday on the condition of anonymity, said the department had requested that Halliburton voluntarily provide documents on the accusations.

Those documents, they said, could determine whether or not a full investigation is launched. Halliburton has complied with the request, the officials said.

One factor in the Justice Department’s decision on whether to press corporate fraud charges is whether the company is cooperative.

Halliburton, already under fire for its handling of contracts related to the war in Iraq, disclosed the Justice Department request in a Jan. 21 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A French magistrate, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, also is investigating the Nigerian payments and has said in a memo that embezzlement charges ultimately could be filed against Mr. Cheney in Paris. Mr. Cheney’s aides have refused comment on the accusations.

According to Halliburton’s SEC filing, the illegal payment accusations involve a joint venture of which Kellogg, Brown & Root was a 25 percent owner. The other partners were Technip SA of France, ENI SpA of Italy and Japan Gasoline Corp.

The filing says the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are reviewing the accusations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The payments reportedly were made to Nigerian officials.

“Halliburton has engaged outside counsel to investigate any allegations and is cooperating with the government’s inquiries,” the company says in the filing. “If illegal payments were made, this matter could have a material adverse effect on our business and the results of operations.”

Halliburton’s troubles do not stop there. The Defense Department is conducting a criminal probe into the Houston-based company’s contract to supply gasoline to Iraqi civilians.

Last month, Kellogg, Brown & Root reimbursed the Pentagon $6.3 million after disclosing that two employees had taken kickbacks from a Kuwaiti subcontractor in return for providing services to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Halliburton has complained repeatedly that criticism of its work in Iraq is politically motivated, in part because of its past ties with Mr. Cheney, the company’s chairman from 1995 to 2000.

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