Exxon accused of bribing Liberian officials by NGO – Houston Chronicle
WASHINGTON - The non-profit Global Witness accused Exxon Mobil Thursday of paying $120 million in 2013 to gain access to an oil field in Liberia they knew had been obtained illegally by former politicians of the West African nation.
Global Witness claims it has an internal Exxon document in which the Texas oil giant says it is interested in the oil field but has "concern over issues regarding US anti-corruption laws."
In a statement, Exxon said the payment was approved by Liberia's Legislature and made public to comply with international anti-corruption regulations. But neither did the company deny knowledge of who would benefit from the sale of the block.
"We are confident that the agreement complies with local Liberian law and international anti-corruption laws," an Exxon spokesman said in an email. "Any questions about bonuses paid by [National Oil Company of Liberia], you would need to discuss that with them."
The Liberian oil company did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
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The charges comes as oil companies worldwide are being pulled into corruption investigations, with European giant Shell set to go on trial in Italy in May for allegedly bribing Nigerian officials to gain access to an offshore oil and gas field.
The Italian criminal invesitgation followed a report by Global Witness alleging the corruption.
In the case of Exxon, the U.K.-based non-profit is alleging that the oil field purchased by the oil giant was partially owned by former Liberian politicians, "who may have illegally granted it to themselves while holding office."
"But despite its concerns, Exxon went ahead with the deal, using the Calgary-based company Canadian Overseas Petroleum as a go-between to purchase the block," Global Witness said.
According to Global Witness, Canadian Overseas Petroleum has denied the allegations, stating, "conducted due diligence and a forensic audit of the block's owners, which showed that the deal posed no legal problems and that Block 13 was not owned by former politicians."
The timing of the deal would put the allegations of corruptions on the watch of former CEO Rex Tillerson, who was recently removed as Secretary of State by President Donald Trump.
James Osborne covers the intersection of energy and politics from the Houston Chronicle's bureau in Washington D.C.


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