Nigeria Drops Bribery Charges Against Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Nigeria drops case against former vice president after Halliburton pays fine.

ByABC News
December 20, 2010, 12:21 PM

NAIROBI Dec. 20, 2010 -- The Nigerian government has dropped bribery charges against former Vice President Dick Cheney after Halliburton agreed to pay Nigeria $250 million dollars in fines.

The charges were filed Dec. 7 and center around Cheney's activities as the chief executive of Halliburton and its one-time subsidiary KBR before he became the vice president in 2001. Last year both companies pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices act by paying more than $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials prior to 2007. The companies were fined $579 million, the largest fine ever paid under the act.

A spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Femi Babafemi, told ABC News that the charges were dropped after the company agreed to the settlement, which includes the company forfeiting some of the $130 million dollars currently frozen in Swiss accounts.

The head of Nigeria's anti-corruption body says the country charged Cheney with bribery to send the message: "Nobody is above the laws of the land."

Farida Mzamber Waziri, the executive chairman of Nigeria's Economic Financial Crimes Commission told ABC News that the country will never end its culture of corruption and impunity until it starts prosecuting everyone guilty of breaking the law, even if it means charging a former vice president of the United States.

"It's not about profile," says Waziri. "It's about breaching the laws of the land."

Though the U.S. Department of Justice and the Security and Exchange Commission conducted an extensive investigation, Nigerian officials had been conducting their own and wanted the case prosecuted in the country where the crimes were committed.

"Monies were taken to offshore accounts at the expense of the poor masses of Nigeria," says Waziri. "The monies meant for development projects are the ones that are carted away, so we are the victims."

Cheney's lawyer, Terrence O'Donnell had issued a statement calling the charges "baseless." O'Donnell points to the fact that the U.S. investigation "found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton."