Halliburton Reaps Record Fine For Nigeria Bribery

January 28, 2009

Though barely registering as a major news story in the mainstream press and television, investigators in the U.S.A. have slapped a record fine on one of the world’s most reviled companies.

Over ten years after the event, Halliburton will now have to pay over $500 million to the SEC and the Department of Justice. That’s not for profiting from the Iraq War, or for the immense corruption in colonial Iraq in which Halliburton has become embroiled,  by the way.

The record fines are for bribes paid to Nigerian officials starting in 1996, which is morally no better. At the time, Nigeria was ruled by the U.S. client and mass murderer Sani Abacha. Abacha was the man who killed Ken Saro Wiwa, the Ogoni rights campaigner. He was also a bosom buddy of multinational oil companies and their cronies such as Halliburton.

In 1996, Halliburton had recently acquired a new CEO, one Richard Cheney, ex U.S. Secretary of Defense. The corruption that then transpired in Nigeria – where Halliburton secured a massive project to construct a liquified natural gas plant – can be traced to his leadership.

Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown and Root bid for the LNG plant on Bonny Island which was worth some $6 billion. Since then, the project (and the enormous terminal that it forms a part of) has developed alongside intensifiying militancy amongst Niger Delta communities.

Just before the LNG contract was “awarded” peaceful protest in the Delta was dealt a cruel blow with the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa, who had spearheaded resistance to the penetration of oil firms into the estuarine region.

Nowadays, Bonny is the site of ongoing struggle for control of Nigeria’s resources.  Last January, an oil tanker was attacked using a remote controlled bomb some 30 km from Bonny. Early this month a French vessel was captured by fighters near Bonny and its crew held to ransom.

Resistance threatens to overwhelm corporate exploitation of Nigeria’s oil and gas. The disenfranchised and marginalized (those who received nothing from Halliburton’s slush funds but pollution) now swarm facilities in the delta.

As Shell’s local manager Noble Pepple put it in December 2008, “The whole area has been taken over by the Sea Pirates and investors in the area have to be escorted” – announcing a temporary shut down of operations on Bonny Island.

That, is the harvest of bribery and corruption. As Reuters’ Ed Stottard puts it:

“Rich in resources, the region is scarred by gut-wrenching poverty and violence which includes rebellion, gangsterism and kidnappings…Many of its problems — like those in other African countries, oil-rich or not — can be traced to corruption. Kickbacks enrich a few; they don’t trickle down, unless you count the booze, drugs and weapons that are used to buy the muscle of unemployed young men to enforce political rule.”

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