Cheney’s Madeira-gate

The island of Madeira, Portugal’s sole fiscal haven, is at the centre of a financial scandal involving various multinational companies and American vice-president Dick Cheney. One of the companies concerned, MW Kellog, a subsidiary of Halliburton, has been linked to three engineering firms which allegedly created ghost firms for the purposes of money laundering and bribery. And Mr Cheney was chairman of MW Kellog before he entered the White House.

The story begins in 1985 when Nigeria granted the American company Shell, the French company ELF and the Italian firm Agip rights to explore its energy resources. The companies decided to construct a power station for the exploration of natural gas on Bonny Island, on the River Niger’s delta. It was then that Cheney’s company, MW Kellog, entered the frame and joined forces with three other engineering firms, the French firm Technip, the Italian firm Snamprogetti and the Japanese firm JGC, to build a massive power station. In order to ‘bring the construction forward’, three consortiums were created, each registered in Madeira, not in Nigeria, and, by 2000, the power station was one of the biggest storage and delivery centres of natural gas on the planet.

But it has emerged that the three consortiums may have been used simply as a mechanism to facilitate paying bribes to Nigerian officials. Speaking during a corruption scandal in France that has embroiled senior political figures, the director-general of Technip, George Kramer, denounced the use of companies registered and set up in Madeira for the payment of bribes. This could open the door to further investigations regarding the level of Mr Cheney’s involvement in the Nigerian scheme.