The Guardian reports:
The oil services company once headed by United States Vice-President Dick Cheney reaped massive rewards in government contracts and bank loans after he took its helm, including one deal with a Russian firm under investigation for mafia connections.
This was disclosed as President George Bush renewed his efforts to stabilise stock markets and distance himself from the wave of accounting scandals afflicting corporate America. Yesterday, Bush urged Congress to punish corporate abuses.
From 1995 to 2000 Cheney was chief executive and chairman of Halliburton, the Dallas-based company that provides products and services to the oil and energy industries, employing 100,000 people worldwide.
Its share value has fallen by two-thirds because of lawsuits over asbestos poisoning and an investigation of accounting changes introduced under Cheney.
Most of Halliburton's government contracts were won by its construction subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown and Root - a company with British origins that was sold to the US parent in the 1970s.
Documents uncovered by a Washington researcher, Knut Royce - formerly with the Centre for Public Integrity - and by The Observer show that government banks loaned or insured loans worth $1.5 billion during the five years that Cheney was chief executive, compared with only $100 million during the previous five years.
The company under Cheney benefited from $3.8bn in government contracts or insured loans. Although Bill Clinton was in the White House, Capitol Hill - where the Appropriations Committee handles government contracts - was controlled by Cheney's Republican Party, to which Halliburton doubled its contributions to $1,212,000 after his arrival.
The most eye-catching contract was for the refurbishment of a Siberian oilfield, Samotlor, for the Tyumen oil company of Russia. The company was loaned $489m in credits by the US Export-Import Bank after lobbying by Halliburton; it was in return to receive $292m for the refurbishments.
The White House and State Department tried to veto the Russian deal. But after intense lobbying by Halliburton the objections were overruled on Capitol Hill. One of Halliburton's top lobbyists was David Gribben, who had been Cheney's chief of staff at the Pentagon.
The State Department's concerns were based on the fact that Tyumen was controlled by a holding conglomerate, the Alfa Group, that had been investigated in Russia for mafia connections.
Alfa strongly denies that it has ever had any criminal connection, describing the allegations as 'nonsense'.
Cheney was highly valued by Halliburton because of connections made in the Arab oil-producing states while Defence Secretary during the war against Iraq under George Bush Snr.
Halliburton denies that Cheney used his position or contacts to win government business. A spokeswoman said: 'Any innuendo that Halliburton or Dick Cheney has acted improperly is false.'
The company's fortunes have flourished during the 'war on terrorism'. It has landed contracts to build the cells for al-Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
A Securities and Exchange Commission investigation is under way into accounting changes introduced by Halliburton in 1998, when it inflated its revenue figures by including uncollected debts.
Sunday, July 21, 2002
The Guardian reports: