Just Above Sunset Archives

January 4, 2004 Franco-American Relations: The Diplomatic War Intensifies

Home | Odds and Ends | Music Notes | Book Notes | Sidebars | Culture Wars Lost | Culture Wars Won | Gay Marriage | Jesus Flogged Repeatedly | Photography | Quotes | Links and Recommendations | Archives | Daily Commentary (weblog)

On Friday, 19 December 2003 on my daily weblog As Seen from Just Above Sunset, I mentioned an item that was being published the next day in Le Fiagro that was most curious.

Here's the passage (the article itself no longer available on the net):


Enquête sur l'affaire Halliburton
Eric Decouty, le Fiagro, 20 décembre 2003

Pour la première fois en France, une information judiciaire a été ouverte pour «corruption d'agent public étranger». Elle vise notamment la société française Technip et l'américaine Halliburton associées dans une opération au Nigeria. Une telle enquête internationale est possible depuis l'adoption en 1997 de la convention de l'OCDE «sur la lutte contre la corruption d'agents publics étrangers dans les négociations commerciales», entrée en vigueur en droit français depuis 2000. C'est donc dans ce nouveau cadre juridique que le juge Renaud Van Ruymbeke mène ses investigations et que le parquet de Paris envisage la mise en cause de l'actuel vice-président de Etats-Unis, Richard Cheney, en sa qualité d'ex-PDG de Halliburton... .


You get the idea.


And now the domestic press has picked it up.

See Will the French Indict Cheney?
Doug Ireland, The Nation, posted online on December 29, 2003

The gist of it?


Yet another sordid chapter in the murky annals of Halliburton might well lead to the indictment of Dick Cheney by a French court on charges of bribery, money-laundering and misuse of corporate assets.

At the heart of the matter is a $6 billion gas liquification factory built in Nigeria on behalf of oil mammoth Shell by Halliburton - the company Cheney headed before becoming Vice President - in partnership with a large French petroengineering company, Technip.  Nigeria has been rated by the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International as the second-most corrupt country in the world, surpassed only by Bangladesh.

One of France's best-known investigating magistrates, Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke - who came to fame by unearthing major French campaign finance scandals in the 1990s that led to a raft of indictments - has been conducting a probe of the Nigeria deal since October. And, three days before Christmas, the Paris daily Le Figaro front-paged the news that Judge van Ruymbeke had notified the Justice Ministry that Cheney might be among those eventually indicted as a result of his investigation.

According to accounts in the French press, Judge van Ruymbeke believes that some or all of $180 million in so-called secret "retrocommissions" paid by Halliburton and Technip were, in fact, bribes given to Nigerian officials and others to grease the wheels for the refinery's construction.

These reports say van Ruymbeke has fingered as the bagman in the operation a 55-year-old London lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler, who has worked for Halliburton for some thirty years.  It was Tesler who was paid the $180 million as a "commercial consultant" through a Gibraltar-based front company he set up called TriStar.  TriStar, in turn, got the money from a consortium set up for the Nigeria deal by Halliburton and Technip and registered in Madeira, the Portuguese offshore island where taxes don't apply.  According to Agence France-Presse, a former top Technip official, Georges Krammer, has testified that the Madeira-based consortium was a "slush fund" controlled by Halliburton - through its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root - and Technip. Krammer, who is cooperating with the investigation, also swore that Tesler was imposed as the intermediary by Halliburton over the objections of Technip.


Cool.  Uncle Dick may be in trouble.

And the questions come up.


The suspected bribe money was mostly ladled out between 1995 and 2000, when Cheney was Halliburton's CEO.  The Journal du Dimanche reported on December 21 that "it is probable that some of the 'retrocommissions' found their way back to the United States" and asked, did this money go "to Halliburton's officials?   To officials of the Republican Party?"   These questions have so far gone unasked by America's media, which have completely ignored the explosive Le Figaro headline revealing the targeting of Cheney.   It will be interesting to see if the US press looks seriously into this ticking time-bomb of a scandal before the November elections.


Now wait a minute!  Who ignored the story?  Not MY readers!

It seems as if the new year is shaping up as a real political donnybrook between France and the United States.

One gets the feeling our government is edging toward revoking the right of Air France to land anywhere in this country.  The whole thing with the cancelled Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles last week seems to many a political set up - we told them bad guys were going to be on those flights, and urged them to cancel the flights, which they willingly did, and then they could find none of these bad guys, because they never showed up at CDG and perhaps never were going to show up.  Then we called them incompetent and berated them for announcing they were canceling the flights when we obviously wanted to catch the bad guys boarding the airplanes in Paris.  A "no win" set-up of the French government.  Cool.  We got them good.  We made them look real bad.

But now they may indict Cheney.  Touché.

This is not going to be nice.

By the way, I have flown that Air France non-stop from CDG to LAX twice, Flight 68, and the last time was the morning after Richard Reid was caught trying to blow up his funky sneakers on that American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami.  Quite safe - but a long, boring December flight leaving CDG in the late morning, climbing northwest over London then Belfast then Greenland and up over the arctic circle, where the sun drops below the horizon and it's night again, and then the sun rises for a second time as the fight drops down over the back end of Canada, over Montana then Las Vegas and into Los Angeles.  Two sunrises in one day.  The sun also rises?  This is not what Hemingway had in mind.