The Nigerian Federal Government yesterday made good its threat to charge a former Vice President of the United States (U.S.), Richard ‘Dick’ Cheney, to court over his alleged complicity in the $180 million bribe-for-contract scandal by approaching a Chief Magistrate Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for a bench warrant for his arrest.

The Guardian had exclusively reported on November 30, that upon the resolution by government’s lawyers and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), that Cheney could not be absolved of complicity in the bribery scandal since he was at that time of the bribery in 2006, the chairman of Halliburton, the country’s Chief Law Officer had directed the lawyers to amend the charge sheets in the on-going trial of Nigerian and Halliburton officials to accommodate the charge of criminal conspiracy against him (Cheney).

Impeccable sources within government confirmed that government’s legal team yesterday filed an application before the Chief Magistrate Court for a bench warrant for Cheney’s arrest.

He explained that when granted within the next 24 hours, the prosecutors would seek the assistance of the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) to execute Cheney’s arrest.

“Government’s Special Prosecutor is seeking a bench warrant from a magistrate in Abuja for the arrest and production of Richard Dick Cheney. The warrant will then be transmitted through INTERPOL for enforcement”, he stated.

Last week, government had also resolved to charge Saipem and AGIP to court for their recalcitrance in spite of their alleged complicity in the scandal.

The source had told The Guardian exclusively last week that the AGF had on Monday, November 29, 2010 briefed government’s negotiation team made up of a narrow team of technocrats within government and a few carefully screened and selected from the private sector to proceed against Cheney legally.”

Members of government’s negotiation team include Damien Dodo (SAN), from the private sector, Mr. Emmanuel Akomaye and Godwin Obla, Secretary and Counsel of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in that order as well as the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Rowland Ewubare.

Another inside source had also disclosed that government was determined to ensure that all firms or conglomerates involved in corrupting and compromising a healthy business environment in the country are made to pay by atonement or the full weight of the law would be brought to bear on them.

He noted that after honest consideration of the situation, government decided to explore the viability of the U.S. model for dealing with companies found to have engaged in such criminal practices as occurred in Nigeria.

He explained that under the U.S. model, erring companies or individuals are to pay criminal penalty or fine in multiple of the amount of the transaction, disgorge all profits made from that deal and institute a three-year scheme of corporate compliance.

Under such arrangement, the firms and or individuals enjoy in return a deferred prosecution agreement, which allows them to be let off the hook if after three years, they are found to have complied with the conditions and have shown good conduct.

The Guardian learnt that it was under that arrangement that a major constructing firm approached government for a peaceful resolution of the case against it. The firm was not a direct beneficiary of any contract in the contract scandal, but served as a conduit to move $5 million, which was passed unto a Nigeria government official.

But the firm, upon showing good faith and paying to government $25 million and entering a three-year scheme of corporate compliance, got government to enter a deferred prosecution agreement.

“I must state that the payment of the $25 million does not mean a total let off for the constructing firm. It is in fact probational as it only affords them three years within which they can be fully discharged if they demonstrate good will and conduct”, he explained.

He said while government is open to exploring the U.S. model to the country’s interest, it would not settle for any fine less than the ones paid to the U.S. government since the crimes were perpetrated in Nigeria.
Already, the U.S. government has received about $1.28 billion in form of criminal fines and disgorgement of profits thereof from various firms involved, the source disclosed.

He said Siemens has paid 30 million Euros, Halliburton has paid $579 million, Snamprogetti and Technip have paid $240 million each as fine and disgorgement to the U.S. government even though the crimes were committed in Nigeria and against Nigeria.

He said while some firms are seeking amicable settlement and offering to comply with the U.S. model in negotiation with the Nigerian team of negotiators, others are seemingly aloof.

Government has instructed its legal team to proceed aggressively against Saipem and AGIP with a view to getting convictions against them, it was learnt. The conviction would in turn be used to freeze and confiscate their assets.

“Government will not settle for anything less than what these firms have paid to the U.S. government. In fact, it is government’s view that it is better to liquidate criminal corporation than settle for anything less than the criminal fines and disgorgement paid to the U.S”, he stated.

Source: The Guardian/Nigerian