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July 24, 2007 

Justice Department Conducting Investigation on Illegal Payments to Customs Agents in Nigeria

Dow Jones Newswires reported tonight that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting a criminal inquiry of nearly a dozen oil and oil-services companies, focusing on potentially illegal payments to customs agents who provided freight forwarding and other services, including in Nigeria. The article states that the Securities and Exchange Commission is also conducting a civil investigation. The article states that:

Eleven oil and oil-service firms received a July 2 letter from the Justice Department's criminal fraud section asking them to detail their relationship with Panalpina World Transport Holding Ltd. (PWTN), a Swiss-based shipping and logistics-management company . . . . The Justice Department letter, which was read to Dow Jones, cited concerns about payments that may violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The oil and oil-service firms were asked to list the countries where Panalpina provided it with services in the past five years, and to specify what it paid for those services. Each firm also was asked to meet separately with federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C.
The article also states that a meeting of oil and oil-services companies was held at the Justice Department in Washington, DC last Friday to discuss "the pitfalls of operating in Nigeria." The article indicates that "participants included four companies that weren't recipients of the July 2 letter, and which had previously reported internal investigations of potential violations of U.S. anti-bribery laws in West Africa."

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