Nigeria drops charges against Halliburton, Cheney

The Nigerian government has dropped bribery charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and oil field services giant Halliburton Co. after a settlement was reached, according to local news reports.

Under the settlement, Halliburton agreed to pay $250 million in fines, the reports said.

Halliburton, with dual headquarters in Houston and Dubai, confirmed through a spokeswoman Friday that the charges had been dropped but declined further comment.

Press reports out of Nigeria and circulated here said former President George H. W. Bush and former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III intervened in the case on behalf of Cheney, who was CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000.

But John Williams, a Houston-based spokesman for Baker with the law office of Baker Botts L.L.P., denied the pair had any involvement in the situation.

“There’s no nuance to this,” he said. “It’s absolutely untrue.”

The charges relate to money paid to Nigerian officials by a private company called TSKJ, in which KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary, was a partner. The payments were intended to help with construction and expansion of a huge natural gas project in the Niger Delta called Bonny Island.

In early 2009, KBR and Halliburton agreed to a $579 million settlement with the United States government to settle Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges. But other governments in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France and Nigeria have pursued their own investigations.

On Sept. 3, the Nigerian government filed criminal charges against TSKJ and member companies, including KBR, for conspiring to make improper payments to public officials.

Though Halliburton spun off KBR in 2007, it agreed to indemnify the engineering and construction firm if more fines resulted from the Bonny Island project.

Halliburton on Friday had not yet made any filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission noting any charges related to a Nigerian settlement.