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NIGERIA: Five convicted in Enron barge case

Agence France-Presse
November 4th, 2004

A JURY in Houston, Texas, today delivered criminal convictions against four bankers and an Enron executive in a case stemming from a money-losing project of electricity-generating barges off the coast of Nigeria.
The trial stems from an investigation of the energy trader's collapse three years ago.

The jury found four former Merrill Lynch executives and a former Enron finance executive guilty of conspiracy and two counts of fraud for their role in the 1999 deal that inflated Enron's earnings.

The verdict "signals that executives committing corporate fraud will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted", said assistant US Attorney General Christopher Wray of the Department of Justice Criminal Division.

"Those who aid such fraud will meet the same fate," said Wray in a statement.

A sixth defendant, Sheila Kahanek, a one-time Enron accountant, was acquitted, according to media reports.

The verdict is part of the government's two-prong approach, Wray said. "First, the verdict metes out individual justice as to the five defendants convicted today; second, the verdict goes hand-in-hand with the sweeping reforms mandated by the government's deferred prosecution agreement with the Merrill Lynch firm," Wray said.

The six-week trial focused on Enron's phony sale to Merrill Lynch of an interest in three power plants mounted on barges off the coast of Nigeria.

Enron booked a $US12 million ($15.9 million) profit from the deal, helping it meet Wall Street earnings targets.

Other top Enron officials, including former chairman Ken Lay and former chief executive officer Jeff Skilling, are awaiting trial.

Former Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow has pleaded guilty and agreed to serve 10 years in prison.

He has yet to be sentenced and is cooperating with prosecutors.

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