Ex-Willbros consultant pleads guilty over bribes

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2009 6:11 PM

A former consultant for a subsidiary of Willbros Group Inc. said Thursday he helped bribe Nigerian officials in hopes of winning a $387 million pipeline contract for the oil and gas services company.

Paul G. Novak, 43, pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one substantive count of violating the FCPA.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 19.

The prosecution of Novak is the latest in an ongoing investigation into Houston-based Willbros.

The U.S. Justice Department said two other Willbros employees previously pleaded guilty to crimes related to their roles in the bribery scheme. Willbros Group and its subsidiary, Willbros International Inc., also were fined $22 million last year for bribery schemes in Nigeria and Ecuador.

Former Willbros International president Kenneth Tillery also has been charged in connection with an alleged role in the Nigerian bribery scheme. Authorities say Tillery has avoided prosecution and remains a fugitive.

In his plea, Novak said he used two consulting firms to make $6 million in bribes to officials in the Nigerian government and a Nigerian political party from 2003 to 2005. The money was meant to help Willbros secure the Eastern Gas Gathering System Project. The project was designed to add natural gas pipelines in the Niger Delta.