Bonny Island THE SECRETS OF
U.S. prosecutors caught four multinationals
paying millions in bribes to Nigerian officials.
Why did some companies get off easier than others?
An entrepot at the tip of the Niger Delta, Bonny Island used to be known for oil, gas, pirates, and pygmy hippos. Now it’s synonymous with bribery.
In 1995 a mostly European consortium won the first of $6
billion in contracts to build a liquefied natural gas plant—in
return for about $180 million in bribes to the Nigerian klepto-crat Sani Abacha and his henchmen. Now nearly a decade of
public investigation has culminated over the past 18 months in a
steady stream of record-setting Bonny Island pleas and deferred
prosecution agreements. In the long history of corruption, and
the short history of anticorruption efforts, the Bonny buccaneers
account for four of the six largest total penalties, three of the top
four corporate disgorgements, and by far the largest individual
forfeiture [see “$1.66 Billion Worth of Pleas,” page 29].
But the buried treasure of Bonny Island goes beyond the
$1.66 billion collected by U.S. authorities. The Bonny pleas
cracked open the shadowy world of multinational corruption in
By Michael D. Goldhaber
Photograph by George Steinmetz