Saturday, September 09, 2006

Suit: Halliburton cheated taxpayers

Suit: Halliburton cheated taxpayers
Items compiled from Tribune news services
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 9, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Halliburton executives ordered a big-screen television and 10 large tubs of tacos, chicken wings and cheese sticks delivered to Iraq for last year's Super Bowl, then billed U.S. taxpayers for their party, according to a lawsuit unsealed Friday.

The Houston-based company also defrauded the government by double- and triple-billing for Internet, food and gym services to soldiers, according to the suit by an ex-employee for KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary that ran dining halls for soldiers in Iraq.

Halliburton vehemently denied the allegations of fraud, which were filed by lawyer Alan Grayson under the False Claims Act. Such lawsuits allow citizens to sue on behalf of the government and recover a portion of any damages.

The company did not deny ordering the TV and the food; it set up snack buffets and special screenings at military bases throughout Iraq for the 2005 Super Bowl. But KBR said its contract allowed recreation and morale-boosting services for its own employees as well as American soldiers.

Grayson, who recently lost a primary race for a House seat in Florida running as a Democrat, denied any political motivations in pursuing the case against Halliburton, noting that he had filed it before deciding to run for office.

He said the whistle-blower in the case, Julie McBride, came forward only after KBR officials ignored her complaints. McBride alleges she was placed under armed guard then fired after she raised questions about Halliburton's billing practices.

Justice department officials "are stonewalling and keeping these cases under seal unnecessarily," Grayson said.


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