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Halliburton: Italian coy under probe

This comes amid speculations that the special panel set up by the federal government, under the leadership of Inspector General of Police Mike Okiro, to…

This comes amid speculations that the special panel set up by the federal government, under the leadership of Inspector General of Police Mike Okiro, to investigate the $180 million bribery scam has completed its work.

The widening of the scam to Italy could make Okiro’s job bigger and add a twist to the scandal that allegedly involves many oil firms and several Nigerian officials, some of whom are linked to three former Nigerian leaders.

Reuters news agency reported yesterday that Italian authorities have searched the offices of a subsidiary of one of the country’s energy firms, Eni, as part of an inquiry into a bribery scheme relating to the building of natural gas facilities in Nigeria.

Italian police sources confirmed a report in one of the country’s best known newspapers, Corriere della Sera, on the opening of the probe by Milan prosecutors. The report said on Friday investigators searched the offices of the company in San Donato, a suburb of Milan.

Two managers of the former Snamprogetti oilfield services unit had been named as being under investigation, the sources said. Snamprogetti is now part of Saipem SpA, a subsidiary of the oil firm Eni. The Milan probe is the Italian portion of an international inquiry into $182 million in bribes paid from 1994 to 2004 by the TSKJ consortium to secure $6 billion euros in contracts to build Nigerian liquefied natural gas facilities.

The group was headed by former Halliburton unit, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). It included Snamprogetti, France’s Technip SA and Japan’s JGC Corp.

An Eni spokeswoman said: “On the facts relating to the TSKJ consortium arising from the period before 2004, there is an inquiry under way by Milan prosecutors, the SEC (the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) and the U.S. Justice Department who will ascertain the facts and ultimately responsibility…”

“Eni and Saipem-Snamprogetti have voluntarily been in contact with investigators for some time to provide them the utmost cooperation,” she added.

KBR pleaded guilty in February to U.S. charges that it paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials in the scheme.

KBR agreed to pay a $402 million fine, of which Halliburton agreed to pay $302 million. Halliburton also agreed with U.S. securities regulators to disgorge $177 million in profits to settle parallel criminal charges.

Corriere della Sera said the search was aimed at determining whether grounds existed to designate Snamprogetti itself as being under investigation. The deadline for naming the company is the end of July.

It is not yet clear whether the Okiro panel would now widen its investigation to include the Italian angle of the scam.

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