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Nigeria in Talks With Technip, Eni and JGC Over Bribe Case

Technip SA of France, Eni SpA of Italy and JGC Corp. of Japan are in talks with Nigerian prosecutors to settle corruption charges that will be filed today, the country’s anti-graft agency said.

“Talks are ongoing and we hope to reach a settlement very soon, once the amount has been agreed by the parties”, Godwin Obla, prosecuting counsel at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said in an interview yesterday at his office in Abuja, the capital. The state wants at least $150 million from each of the companies. “We think that’s only fair,” Obla said.

Nigeria is investigating a group of companies known as TSKJ, including Paris-based Technip, Snamprogetti SpA, a unit of Rome-based Eni, KBR, a former Halliburton Co. subsidiary, and JGC in Tokyo, for allegedly paying $180 million as bribes to officials between 1994 and 2004 to win a $6 billion liquefied natural gas plant contract. Prosecutors couldn’t reach an understanding for talks with Halliburton and KBR, Obla said.

“We have been cooperating with EFCC and have no additional comments,” Christophe Belorgeot, a Technip spokesman said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The anti-graft agency is satisfied with “the explanations and documentation provided by Eni,” Gianni Di Giovanni, the company’s spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement today, without giving details. No one answered phone calls to JGC’s office in Tokyo outside normal business hours.

Nigeria arrested at least 23 officials last week from companies including Halliburton and Technip over corruption allegations. Those detained were all freed on bail on Nov. 29.

U.S. Deals

Technip took a charge of 245 million euros ($342 million) related to its stake in TSKJ and discussed “resolution of all potential claims” with the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Paris-based company said on Feb. 12. KBR and Halliburton agreed to pay $579 million in February 2009 in a similar deal.

Charges will be filed in Nigeria against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was chief executive officer of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, along with current and other former chief executives, Obla said on Dec. 1. His spokesman hasn’t responded to an e-mail seeking comment.

An aide of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was charged with six counts of money-laundering in Abuja on Oct. 13 in connection with the alleged payment of bribes.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest crude producer and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

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