The shadowy side of international business has been the focus of a nine-month investigation by PBS FRONTLINE, shedding light on multinational companies that have routinely paid bribes to win billions in business.

Perhaps nowhere on earth is the human cost of this large-scale corruption more evident than in the Niger Delta, the center of Nigeria’s oil industry. The region produces more than 10 percent of the oil consumed by the U.S., yet the people live in abject poverty with the land and water devastated by spills and the air poisoned by the constant ‘flaring’ of natural gas.

FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman investigates engineering giant Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), one company found guilty of contributing to the endemic corruption in Nigeria. The former Halliburton subsidiary was involved in a $180 million bribery scheme to pay off government officials to win contracts in the Niger Delta.

This groundbreaking case has opened a window into the role played by multinational corporations in fostering the corruption that has plagued Nigeria.

Last September, Albert “Jack” Stanley, the former CEO of KBR, plead guilty to bribery for masterminding payments to the political leadership of Nigeria and agreed to a record seven-year prison sentence. Halliburton and KBR also agreed to settle the case, paying more than half a billion dollars in fines, the largest ever for a U.S. company for international bribery. 

“The real tragedy,” says Nuhu Ribadu, the former anti-corruption chief who brought hundreds of prosecutions in Nigeria, “is that $180 million dollars in bribes could have saved lives in Nigeria.” Bribes of this size, could instead build hundreds of schools and thousands of kilometers of roads, Ribadu estimates.

Today Nuhu Ribadu is no longer hunting corruption in Nigeria after his investigations into the country’s rich and powerful resulted in attempts on his life. “They shot at me. I survived it. They wanted to kill me,” Ribadu tells Bergman while in exile. “If you fight corruption it fights back.”

As part of this multimedia investigation, FRONTLINE and its international newsmagazine FRONTLINE/World have launched The Business of Bribes an unfolding online investigation. The site offers breaking news stories, as well as in-depth web-exclusive interviews with middlemen, prosecutors, whistleblowers and former presidents, detailing the stories behind some of the largest bribery investigations in corporate history. 

The project also includes a one-hour April 7, 2009 FRONTLINE documentary “Black Money,” print stories in the New York Times and online stories in MSN, ProPublica and elsewhere.

“Black Money,” “The Business of Bribes” and the NewsHour segment were reported and produced in partnership with the Logan Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Additional funding was provided by the Nathan Cummings Foundation.



Friday, April 24, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

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