Transocean sued by U.S. SEC claiming illegal payments

Transocean Ltd. was sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over claims the offshore oil driller made illegal payments to Nigerian government officials from 2002 to 2007. In the suit filed today in federal court in Washington, the SEC claims the company made payments to extend the temporary importation status of its drilling rigs, obtain false paperwork associated to the rigs and obtain clearances. The company’s gains from the conduct totaled $6 million, the SEC said in the complaint.

In addition, the company made payments through Panalpina World Transport Holdings Ltd.’s express service to Nigerian government officials to expedite the import of various goods. In most instances, customs duties were not paid by Transocean or Panalpina, the SEC claims. In a separate filing against Transocean unit Globalsantafe Corp., the SEC claimed the company profited by an additional $2.7 million in avoiding customs related costs saved by payments to government officials. Instead of moving rigs out of Nigerian waters when its permit to temporarily import the rigs had expired, the company made payments to the Nigerian customs officials to get documentation reflecting the rigs had been moved, when they had not. The Transocean unit also made payments to Gabon, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea to obtain special treatment during the customs process, the SEC claims. The case is U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Transocean Inc., 10cv1891, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Washington).