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Cheney, Halliburton may settle Nigerian charges

By the CNN Wire Staff
Ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, here at the Bush Presidential Center's groundbreaking last month, ran Halliburton in the '90s.
Ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, here at the Bush Presidential Center's groundbreaking last month, ran Halliburton in the '90s.
  • Energy firm, former vice president charged with bribery
  • They may agree to plea deal requiring payment of $250 million, Nigerian official says
  • Case involves allegations of bribes to Nigerian officials for natural gas project
  • Halliburton pleaded guilty to bribery charges in U.S. last year

(CNN) -- Charges of bribery against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Halliburton by Nigeria's anti-corruption police may be dropped after an agreement to pay a $250 million fine.

"Discussions focus on the possibility of a plea bargain arrangement," said Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

"Allowing the company and former officials to pay heavy fines in lieu of prosecution ... they would pay $120 million as fines and $130 million from bad money stored in Switzerland from the original deal -- so $250 million in total."

This month, the commission charged Cheney -- who ran Halliburton in the 1990s -- and nine others with "conspiracy and distribution of gratification to public officials."

The investigation is part of a long-running case involving Halliburton and a subsidiary firm, Kellogg, Brown and Root, over alleged bribes paid to Nigerian officials to secure $6 billion worth of contracts for a liquefied natural gas project in the Niger Delta.

The bribes are said to have amounted to $180 million between 1994 and 2004.

The firm pleaded guilty to foreign bribery charges in the United States last year and paid a $402 million criminal fine, the U.S. Justice Department said. KBR and Halliburton also paid $177 million to settle civil complaints related to the bribery, the Justice Department said.

Investigations in Nigeria, however, have been ongoing, and there are allegations that the bribes went all the way to the top, to aides, officials and possibly then-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Many observers in Nigeria regard the move as a publicity stunt by the commission ahead of national elections in April and as a symbolic effort to display resolve against government corruption.

The agency has had limited success in getting successful prosecutions and hasn't charged any high-profile people since its top commissioner was removed from the body in 2007.

Cheney's atttorney has said that there is no reason to suspect that his client is guilty.

"This matter involves the activities of an international four-company joint venture (which included KBR, then a subsidiary of Halliburton) well over a decade ago," Terrence O'Connell said.

"The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated that joint venture extensively and found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton."

The latest discussions on reaching a settlement ended this weekend in London, Babafemi said.

The arrangement is now waiting for Nigeria's Minister of of Justice to officially agree to the deal, a decision that is expected by the end of the week.