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Swiss to give Britain bank papers

Published on 31/03/2009

GENEVA - A Swiss court ordered the handover of details of bank accounts to British authorities investigating a USD 133 million (CHF 153 million) multinational bribery scandal in Nigeria.

In a ruling published Monday, Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Tribunal rejected an appeal made by an unnamed British citizen who was suspected of taking part in money laundering and corruption.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office asked for Swiss legal assistance in 2006 while investigating a consortium of French, Italian, Japanese and US firms, according to the ruling dated 29 February.

The companies, which were not named, allegedly commissioned the Briton to use his influence with Nigerian officials to secure contracts for a USD 6 billion gas pipeline complex between 1995 and 2004.

He was paid about USD 60 million through banks in Monaco and Switzerland, court documents stated.

In all, about USD 133.5 million in bribes were paid through a network of front companies in the Bahamas, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Panama, Seychelles and the Turks and Caicos islands, they said.

A Geneva magistrate originally granted the legal assistance in July 2008.

Maurice Harari, the British defendant’s legal counsel, told the Swiss news agency ATS that he would not make a final appeal against the ruling.

In February, US company Kellogg Brown & Root LLC, a former unit of US conglomerate Halliburton, agreed to pay USD 579 million to settle a bribery case brought by US justice authorities.

KBR, which entered a guilty plea under the settlement, was part of a global consortium that was awarded contracts between 1995 and 2004 to build natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, US justice authorities said.

The contracts were awarded to a four-company joint venture involving KBR, which at the time was a subsidiary of Halliburton, an oil services group once headed by Dick Cheney, the former US vice president.

AFP / Expatica