US probing Schlumberger bribery in Yemen: report

8th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The US Department of Justice is probing allegations of possible bribery by oil services company Schlumberger in Yemen, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Citing sources familiar with the investigation and Justice Department documents, the Journal said the inquiry was in its early stages and concerned payments made several years ago.

The money was reportedly paid to a consulting firm with ties to Yemen's government at a time when Schlumberger was seeking approval for the creation of an oil-exploration data bank in the impoverished Middle Eastern nation.

The investigation, which has solicited information from former Schlumberger employees, concerns the company's decision to hire a Yemeni firm called Zonic Invest to mediate with the Yemeni government.

Zonic, which received a 500,000 dollar signing bonus, was run at the time by a nephew of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The bonus was paid in 2003, before a contract with the company was even signed, the Journal reported. In 2004, a Schlumberger manager resisted signing a deal, but said he received threatening calls until the contract was signed.

Zonic's former director general Tawfik Saleh Abdullah Saleh told the Journal that no threats were ever made and that his former company provided Schlumberger with key services.

The Yemeni firm received a total of 1.38 million dollars between 2003 and 2007, the Journal reported.

The payments were investigated by Schlumberger's own compliance officers, but a 2008 report concluded too much time had passed to determine the facts and no disciplinary action was taken.

© 2010 AFP

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