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Nigeria sets up panel to probe US bribery scandal

ABUJA (CGN) – Nigeria on Wednesday set up a panel to probe a multi-million dollar cash-for-contract scandal embroiling US giant Halliburton and reportedly implicating three former presidents, the justice minister said.

“Pursuant to the determination of the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua to ensure zero tolerance for corruption in the country, the president has constituted a high-powered committee to commence an in-house investigation of the Halliburton bribery scandal,” a statement said.

The committee, headed by the national police boss Mike Okiro, will be launched in Abuja on Tuesday, the statement said.

The panel will include the heads of the anti-graft agency EFCC, the National Intelligence Agency and the State Security Service. The statement said Nigeria had requested the US government for mutual legal assistance.

Earlier this month, Justice Minister Michael Aondoakaa went to Washington to seek US cooperation in getting the names of Nigerian officials implicated in the scandal.

Aondoakaa has written to his US counterpart for a list of the names.

Nigerian media and NGOs said three former Nigerian presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdulsalami Abubakar and the late Sani Abacha were among those who accepted bribes.

US authorities announced in February that Halliburton and its former subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root had agreed to pay 579 million dollars (438.6 million euros) in fines related to the case, the biggest fines ever paid by US companies in a foreign corruption case.

Halliburton, which will have to pay the bulk of the fine, admitted it had paid 182 million dollars to Nigerian government officials over a 10-year period to win a six billion dollar contract to build a liquified natural plant on Bonny Island, southern Nigeria.

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