DOJ charges pair in Nigerian LNG project bribery investigation

The US Department of Justice said that it has charged two British citizens with allegedly trying to bribe Nigerian officials to obtain more than $6 billion of contracts to build liquefied natural gas facilities in Nigeria.

The US Department of Justice said on March 5 that it has charged two British citizens with allegedly trying to bribe Nigerian officials to obtain more than $6 billion of contracts to build liquefied natural gas facilities in Nigeria.

Jeffrey Tesler, of London, and Wjociech Chodan, of Maidenhead, England, were indicted on Feb. 17 in US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Acting Assistant US Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of DOJ's Criminal Division announced.

They were each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and 10 counts of violating the FCPA, she said. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of more than $130 million from the defendants, Glavin said. DOJ is seeking their extradition to the United States to stand trial, she indicated. Each defendant faces a maximum of 55 years in prison if convicted on all charges, she said.

DOJ said that according to the indictment, Tesler was hired in 1995 as an agent of a four-company joint venture which was awarded four engineering, procurement and construction contracts by Nigeria LNG Ltd. between 1995 and 2004 to build LNG facilities at Bonny Island. The government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. was the largest shareholder in NLNG, with a 49% stake, the US law enforcement department said.

It said that Chodan was a former salesman and consultant of a British subsidiary of Kellogg, Brown & Root Inc., one of the companies in the joint venture. At so-called "cultural meetings," Chodan and other co-conspirators allegedly discussed the use of Tesler and other agents to bribe Nigerian government officials to gain the officials' support for awarded the EPC contracts to the joint venture, the indictment said.

Met with KBR executive

It said that the joint venture hired Tesler to bribe high-level Nigerian officials, including a number in the top level of the government's executive branch, and another agent to bribe NLNG employees and other lower level Nigerian officials. At crucial junctures before the EPC contracts were awarded, then-KBR chief executive Albert (Jack) Stanley and others allegedly met with three successive holders of a top-level office in the Nigerian government's executive branch to ask the officeholder to designate a representative with whom the joint venture should negotiate the bribes, DOJ said in its indictment.

Stanley and others allegedly negotiated payment amounts with the officeholders' representatives and agreed to hire Tesler and the other agent to pay the bribes, it continued. The joint venture entered into a series of consulting contracts with a Gibraltar corporation which Tesler allegedly controlled and paid it approximately $132 million to bribe Nigerian government officials, it said. On the joint venture and its four companies' behalf, Tesler allegedly wire-transferred bribe payments to various Nigerian officials and a Nigerian political party, DOJ said.

The charges against Tesler and Chodan came after KBR's successor company, Kellogg Brown & Root LLC, pleaded guilty in February to FCPA-related charges for participating in the scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials. It was ordered to pay a $402 million fine and to retain an independent compliance monitor for three years to review the design and implementation of its compliance program as well as report to the company and DOJ.

Stanley pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiring to violate the FCPA for his participation in the bribery scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 27, DOJ said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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