lycos finance: Swiss Blocks Accounts in Oil Co. Probe

Swiss Blocks Accounts in Oil Co. Probe

3 December 2004, 4:26pm ET

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss justice authorities have blocked bank accounts containing $100 million in an investigation of an alleged bribery scandal tied to a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., the oil services company formerly headed by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

Geneva state investigator Daniel Dumartheray confirmed a report in the daily Tribune de Geneve that the freeze was imposed after France asked Switzerland to grant judicial assistance for its investigation in the case. He declined to identify the accountholders or the banks involved.

It was unclear whether the frozen money was part of the total $180 million allegedly paid by an international consortium to win contracts for a natural gas project in Nigeria between 1995 and 2002.

The French investigation, launched in October 2003, centers on allegations that the TSKJ consortium paid illegal commissions in connection with a $4 billion contract it won in 1995 to build and expand a Nigerian liquefied natural gas plant.

The four partners in the consortium were M.W. Kellogg Co., a subsidiary of Dresser Industries; Technip SA of France; ENI SpA of Italy; and Japan Gasoline Corp.

Halliburton acquired Dresser in 1998 _ three years after Cheney began his 1995-2000 tenure as Halliburton’s CEO _ and combined its Brown & Root subsidiary with M.W. Kellogg to form engineering and construction unit KBR.

The consortium got other contracts involving the Nigerian plant in 1999 and 2002.

Last month, Halliburton said an ongoing internal investigation by the Houston-based conglomerate had still not found any evidence that supports claims of bribery.

The U.S. Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Nigerian officials also are investigating.

In June, Halliburton fired two consultants including former KBR chairman A. Jack Stanley, for violating the company’s business code of conduct by receiving “improper personal benefits” related to TSKJ’s construction of the Nigerian plant.

Halliburton shares rose 13 cents to close at $38.74 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.