Thursday, 16 December 2010

Nigeria: The EFCC drops charges against Cheney

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has dropped bribery charges against, former US vice president and CEO of Halliburton, Dick Cheney after Halliburton agreed to pay up to $250 million in fines. A spokesman for the anti corruption agency Femi Babafemi said, "There was a plea bargain on the part of the company to pay $250m as fines in lieu of prosecution."

The EFCC met with Dick Cheney's representatives and Halliburton officials in London last week, after filing 16 count charges against Cheney relating to the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in Niger Delta. Halliburton and four of its subsidies were also charged with allegedly bribing Nigerian officials to secure contracts.

Last year, Halliburton and one of its now former subsidiaries, KBR, pleaded guilty, in a US court, to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices act by paying in excess of $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials. The companies were fined $579 million, the largest fine ever paid under the act.

Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Farida Mzamber Waziri, said that Nigeria will not eradicate corruption until it starts prosecuting those breaching the law irrespective of who they are.

"It's not about profile. It's about breaching the laws of the land," Waziri said.

Prior to the plea bargain Cheney's lawyer, Terrance O'Donnell, issued a statement on his client's behalf saying the charges were “baseless” and further added that the US investigation "found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton."

Speaking about Cheney's claims of innocence Waziri said, "Dick Cheney was head of Halliburton. There's no way such amount of money would've been moved to bribe Nigerians without his approval and without his knowledge, this is what we're saying."

Several of Nigeria's rights groups expressed disappointment about the outcome. Programme officer at Social Action Nigeria Celestine AkpoBari said, "I would have loved to see Dick Cheney in chains in our court and facing justice in our prisons. That would have been a very big point that would have lifted Nigeria out of its woes."

Sources: Guardian, The Telegraph, ABC News

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

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