French oil company allegedly bribes Nigeria tax officials

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French oil and gas group, Bourbon, has denied having bribed Nigerian tax officials to reduce a tax reassessment.

Eight current and former Group executives are appearing before the Marseilles Criminal Court for corruption charges in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea
and Cameroon.According to the prosecution, $2.7 million was paid in 2012 to Nigerian tax auditors to reduce a tax reassessment from $227 million to $4.1 million.However, Bourbon claims
that negotiations with the Nigerian tax authorities were delegated to their local partner, Intels, a subsidiary of
the Orleaninvest group.

Intels had set up two companies in joint venture with Bourbon: Bourbon Interoil Nigeria Limited (BINL) and Bourbon Offshore Interoil Nigeria Service Limited (BOINSL). At the trial, Gaël Bodénès, then Deputy Chief Operating Officer and now Bourbon’s number 1, expressed his regret that “ his instructions had not been followed”. He stated that he had given no instructions to approve bribe payments.

Former managing director of Bourbon, Christian Lefèvre assured that he was
opposed to any form of corruption. His first reaction, he said, was ‘there’s no way Bourbon would be involved in this kind of request.’ However, none of the
executives mentioned having given explicit instructions to prevent suspicious payments.

Former chief Financial officer, Laurent Renard also denied any involvement, stressing that he had no power over Intels. Email exchanges between Marc Cherqui, Bourbon’s tax director in Lagos, and other company executives were presented as evidence. These emails suggest corruption in progress.In his testimony, the director of Bourbon Marine and Logistics, Rodolphe Bouchet, referred to emails concerning a bribe of two
million euros. Gaël Bodénès justified his lack of reaction to these emails by saying that he was managing a
kidnapping crisis involving Bourbon sailors.

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