Ex-KBR Consultant Pleads Guilty in Nigerian Bribe Case

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Wojciech J. Chodan, a former consultant to a U.K. unit of KBR Inc., pleaded guilty to U.S. charges that he conspired to bribe Nigerian officials to obtain $6 billion in contracts for a liquefied natural gas project.

Chodan, a U.K. citizen who was extradited on Dec. 3, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Houston to conspiring to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an anti-bribery law. He faces as long as five years in prison when he’s sentenced on Feb. 22. He is cooperating with the government and has agreed to forfeit $726,885, according to court filings.

“Chodan admitted that from approximately 1994 through June 2004, he and his co-conspirators agreed to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials, including top-level executive branch officials, in order to obtain and retain engineering, procurement and construction contracts,’’ the U.S. Justice Department said today in a statement.

The Bonny Island project in Nigeria pipes liquefied natural gas from wellheads to processing plants, purifies it and loads it onto tankers for export. Engineering, procurement and construction contracts for the project were worth more than $6 billion, prosecutors said.

Andrew Lourie, a lawyer for Chodan, declined to comment.

Albert Jack Stanley, a former KBR chairman, pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiring to violate the FCPA. Stanley, who hasn’t been sentenced, admitted that he helped arrange $182 million in bribes.

$579 Million Penalties

KBR and its former parent, Halliburton Co., agreed in February 2009 to pay a total of $579 million in penalties for their role in the scheme and to retain an independent compliance monitor for three years. KBR split off from Halliburton in 2007.

On Dec. 1, Nigerian officials said they intended to file charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was Halliburton’s chief executive officer from 1995 to 2000. Godwin Obla, prosecuting counsel at Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said indictments could be filed in the West African nation as soon as this week. Arrest warrants would be issued through Interpol for Cheney and officials of five companies including Halliburton over their alleged roles in the bribery scheme, Obla said.

Technip SA, Europe’s second-largest oilfield-services provider, agreed to pay $338 million in June to avoid U.S. prosecution and resolve civil claims.

In July, Snamprogetti Netherlands BV also agreed to pay a $240 million criminal fine to avoid U.S. prosecution over its role in the Nigerian scheme.

The case is U.S. v. Chodan, 4:09-cr-00098, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).