|Former vice president Dick Cheney and the company he headed, Halliburton, were accused of bribery in Nigeria [AFP]
Nigeria has dropped charges against Dick Cheney, the former US vice-president, over bribery allegations involving the energy giant Halliburton after an out-of-court settlement was agreed.
Nigeria's anti-corruption watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said that the charges were dropped on Friday after Halliburton agreed to pay fines totalling up to $250 million over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to Nigerian officials.
Halliburton, which has previously said the claims had no legal basis, confirmed that the charges had been dropped, but declined to give further comment on the case.
The EFCC said it received the settlement offer when it met with officials representing Cheney and Halliburton in London last week after 16-count charges were filed at a federal high court in Abuja.
Before charges were filed a Nigerian prosecutor had confirmed that negotiations were under way with companies allegedly linked to the scandal, raising the question of whether indictments might be used as leverage to secure payments from the companies.
The charges relate to money paid to Nigerian officials by KBR, the Houston-based Halliburton-owned engineering firm between 1994 and 2004. KBR admitted last year it paid $180 million in bribes to secure a natural gas project in the Niger Delta.
After admitting the bribery, KBR paid out a $579 million settlement in the United States, but that did not stop Nigeria, France and Switzerland from conducting their own investigations into the case.
The EFCC last week announced it was charging David Lesar, Cheney and two other executives over the bribery. It also filed charges against Halliburton as a company, which was headed by Cheney during the 1990s, and four associated businesses.
Halliburton split from KBR in 2007, and has insisted that its current operations in Nigeria had no link in the gas project in question.
After the EFCC announcement, KBR declined comment, but has in the past said that "the actions of the Nigerian government suggest that its officials are wildly and wrongly asserting blame in this matter".
The EFCC is still pursuing cases against a number of Nigerians accused of receiving the bribes, but has closed the investigation into Halliburton.
The charges against Halliburton and Cheny came as Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, faces pre-election pressure to show progress in reducing corruption in a country that is consistently ranked as one of the world's most graft-ridden.