Nigeria frees Halliburton staff as probe continues

* Arrests relate to case involving former Halliburton unit

* Detained staff included Nigerians and expatriates

* KBR pleaded guilty last year to US charges it paid bribes

ABUJA, Nov 29 (BestGrowthStock) – Nigeria’s anti-corruption police
said on Monday employees of U.S. oilfield services group
Halliburton (HAL.N: ) arrested last week in a bribery case have
been freed, but must stay in the country pending further
investigations.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) detained
10 Nigerian and expatriate Halliburton staff for questioning as
well as one senior employee each from oil firms Saipem
Contracting Nigeria Ltd (SPMI.MI: ) and Technip Offshore Nigeria
Ltd (TECF.PA: ). [ID:nLDE6AQ0BH]

The arrests relate to a bribery case involving the U.S.
firm’s former unit KBR (KBR.N: ). The companies split in 2007 and
Halliburton has said it is not connected with the case.

A spokesman for the EFCC said the detainees, taken into
custody on Thursday, had been released because under law they
could not be held for more than two days, but said they would
remain in Nigeria until investigations had been completed.

“We can’t keep them for more than 48 hours. Their travel
documents have been detained pending the investigation … they
cannot leave the country,” EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi said.

Houston-based engineering firm KBR pleaded guilty last year
to U.S. charges that it paid $180 million in bribes between 1994
and 2004 to Nigerian officials to secure $6 billion in contracts
for the Bonny Island liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

KBR and Halliburton reached a $579 million settlement in the
United States but Nigeria, France and Switzerland have conducted
their own investigations into the case. [ID:nN22234252]

Halliburton said it was not involved in the LNG development,
its employees have never participated in any work on the project
and the EFCC raid last week had no legal basis.

It said its offices were ransacked and personnel assaulted
during last week’s raid in what it described as “an affront
against justice”.

“What we are doing is based on fresh information,” Babafemi
said. “It is illogical to say we acted illegally. As long as the
laws of the country are upheld there is nothing illegal in what
we are doing.”

A former aide to Nigerian ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo
pleaded not guilty in October to six counts of money laundering
in relation to the case between 2002-2003, including accepting
$1.5 million in bribes. [ID:nLDE69C23V]

His case was adjourned to Dec. 16.
(For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the
top issues, visit: http://af.reuters.com/ )
(Reporting by Joe Brock; editing by Nick Tattersall/David
Stamp)

Nigeria frees Halliburton staff as probe continues