Former Willbros executive pleads guilty in bribe plot

DOJ reported that a former executive of a unit of Willbros Group pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Nigerian officials with more than $6 million to secure a major gas pipeline construction contract in that country.

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 7 -- A former executive of a Willbros Group Inc. subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Nigerian government officials with more than $6 million to secure a major natural gas pipeline construction contract in that country, the US Department of Justice announced on Nov. 5.

Jason Edward Steph of Sunset, Tex., pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He is cooperating with the government's investigation and faces a sentence of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 25, 2008.

Steph worked for Willbros's overseas subsidiary Willbros International Inc. from 1998 to April 2005 and was general manager of its onshore operations in Nigeria from 2000 until April 2005, DOJ said.

As part of his guilty plea, he admitted that in late 2003 he, a senior executive in charge of Willbros Group's international business, two purported consultants working for Willbros International, and certain Nigerian-based employees of a German engineering and construction company agreed to pay the millions in bribes. The money was to go to officials of Nigerian National Oil Corp. and its Nigerian Petroleum Investment Services subsidiary, a Nigerian political party, and a senior official in the Nigerian government's executive branch.

Steph also admitted that he, former Willbros International executive Jim Bob Brown, and others arranged to pay about $1.8 million in cash to government officials in Nigeria to further the scheme. Brown pleaded guilty to a similar charge on Sept. 14, 2006, DOJ said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

More in General Interest