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Halliburton Company recently settled allegations that the company improperly steered business to the friend of an Angolan official in exchange for that official awarding various oil contracts to the company. In total, Halliburton agreed to pay the SEC $29.2 million, comprising $14 million in disgorgement, $1.2 million in prejudgment interest, and a $14 million penalty. Halliburton’s former vice president also agreed to pay the SEC a $75,000 penalty related to these violations and other accounting irregularities.
This is the most recent settlement in a series of FCPA enforcement actions focusing on Halliburton’s procurement processes and operations in various countries. Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR settled similar FCPA allegations in 2009 related to alleged bribes paid to Nigerian officials to procure contracts in that country.
This settlement also highlights the role of whistleblowers in driving FCPA and other enforcement actions. A Halliburton whistleblower first alerted the company to potential FCPA issues in 2010, which resulted in the launching of an investigation into the allegations.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday, July 14, that prosecutors filed a civil complaint seeking to seize $144 million in assets that were allegedly the proceeds of corruption in Nigeria and were laundered in and through the U.S. According to the complaint, from 2011 to 2015, Nigerian businessmen Kolawole Akanni Aluko and Olajide Omokore bribed Nigeria’s former Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who oversaw Nigeria’s state-owned oil company. In return, Alison-Madueke steered lucrative oil contracts to companies owned by Aluko and Omokore. The proceeds were then allegedly used to purchase assets subject to seizure and forfeiture, including a $50 million New York City condominium and an $80 million yacht.
“The United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “The complaint announced today demonstrates the Department’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners around the globe to trace and recover the proceeds of corruption, no matter the source. Corrupt foreign officials and business executives should make no mistake: if illicit funds are within the reach of the United States, we will seek to forfeit them and to return them to the victims from whom they were stolen.”
The suit was part of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
On May 27, a London jury found three employees of Swift Technical Solutions Ltd (Swift) not guilty of corruption charges in connection with alleged corrupt payments to tax officials in Nigeria. The SFO announced the verdict on June 2. As to one defendant, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on one count and was discharged; the SFO informed the Southwark Crown Court that it would not seek to retry that defendant on that count and the court entered a verdict of not guilty. The SFO brought the corruption charges in late 2012 after a two-year investigation related to the tax affairs of a Swift Nigerian subsidiary. The SFO alleged that the Swift employees paid bribes totaling approximately £180,000 in 2008 and 2009 to Nigerian tax officials to avoid, reduce, or delay paying tax on behalf of workers placed by Swift. The alleged bribes occurred before the enactment of the U.K. Bribery Act and allegedly went to agents of two Nigerian Boards of Internal Revenue - the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue and the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue. The SFO did not charge Swift with any criminal offense, citing its cooperation with the agency.
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