A criminal investigation of eleven oil and oil-services companies is underway by the U.S. Justice Department. A civil investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission is also in progress.
The oil firms received a letter on 2nd July from the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section requesting that they describe their relationship with Panalpina World Transport Holding (PWTN), a Swiss-based shipping and logistics-management company. The letter included concerns about payments that may breach the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The oil firms were requested to list the countries where Panalpina provided it with services in the past 5 years and to state what it paid for those services. Each company was also asked to meet with federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C.
Panalpina is conducting an internal enquiry and has been asked to provide documents to the Justice Department relating to services in Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia for a limited number of customers. A spokesperson from Panalpina said that they are co-operating with the investigation.
The Justice Department investigates the difficulty of complying with U.S. anti-bribery laws in countries that may be awash in dishonesty. Federal officials requested a meeting at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. recently to discuss the pitfalls of operating in Nigeria.
According to inside sources (speaking anonymously), companies that do not want to pay bribes are unable to obtain permits needed to carry out business in Nigeria, while those that do risk of being charged with breaching the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act.
In addition, the inside sources concluded that the U.S. oil and oil-services companies that conduct business in Nigeria are keen on having the U.S. government tackle these issues and hope Nigeria’s recent elections might offer an opportunity for change.