French company Technip agrees to pay $338 million in Nigerian bribery scheme

HOUSTON (AP) — A French engineering firm has agreed to pay $338 million to settle accusations it engaged in a decade-long scheme with a former Halliburton Co. subsidiary to bribe Nigerian officials to win construction contracts, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Paris-based Technip S.A. conducted the alleged bribery scheme from 1994 to 2004 so it could obtain contracts valued at more than $6 billion to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, federal officials said.

"The resolutions announced today demonstrate once again the department's commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute international bribery by U.S. and foreign corporations alike," Mythili Raman, principal deputy assistant attorney general with the Justice Department's criminal division, said in a statement.

Technip chairman and CEO Thierry Pilenko said the agreement with U.S. authorities "puts this legacy story behind us and enables us to focus on continuing to develop Technip's business."

"We stand by Technip's commitment to carrying out its business activities ethically and according to both the spirit and letter of the law worldwide," Pilenko said in a statement.

Technip has agreed to pay a $240 million criminal penalty as part of a deferred prosecution agreement and a criminal information resolving charges of conspiracy and of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The agreement and criminal information were filed in Houston federal court. If Technip complies with the terms of the agreement, which includes setting up a compliance and ethics program, the Justice Department will dismiss the charges at the end of two years.

The company also agreed to pay $98 million to settle a related civil complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Technip was part of a four-company joint venture, including engineering and construction services company Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., formed in 1990 to bid on and build the Nigerian natural gas facilities.

In February 2009, Houston-based KBR pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the bribery scheme. KBR and Halliburton, KBR's former parent company, agreed to pay $579 million in criminal and civil fines. KBR split from Halliburton in 2007.

Albert "Jack" Stanley, a former KBR CEO, pleaded guilty in 2008 to federal bribery charges for his role in the scheme. He is set to be sentenced Sept. 23.

According to court documents, Stanley and others met with high-ranking Nigerian government officials and their representatives on at least four occasions to arrange the bribe payments.

The joint venture set aside more than $180 million for the bribes.

Technip authorized the hiring of two agents to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials, according to court documents.