Bonny Island LNG Bribery Scandal Returns

(Morning Star, London, 20 February 2015) Recently released HSBC files reveal that the bank's Swiss branch held accounts for Jeffrey Tesler, a London lawyer who was jailed in the US for a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain contracts to build a liquid natural gas plant on Bonny Island in Nigeria. The bribes were paid on behalf of a consortium that included Halliburton's former subsidiary, KBR, whose successor company, Kellogg Brown & Root LLC, pleaded guilty in the US in 2009 to participating in the bribery scheme and was fined $402 million by the US Department of Justice. Tessler's company Tristar, which was used as a vehicle for the bribes, is also reported to have held an account with HSBC. The same bank also held the accounts for the companies that were used to transfer the bribes and the Nigerian politicians who took the bribes. A second member of the consortium, Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V, a former subsidiary of the Italian oil multinational Eni, also pleaded guilty to bribery charges in the US. The corrupt Bonny Island project was backed by Britain's ECGD (now UKEF), Italy's SACE, the Netherlands's NCM (now Atradius) and US Exim. The disclosure of these HSBC papers raises questions of how effective ECA reporting has been and is on bribery and due diligence for the banks they provide cover for.