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Novak jailed in Willbros case

A former consultant for pipeline contractor Willbros International Inc. was sentenced Friday for his role in a scheme to pay more than $6 million in bribes to government and political party officials in Nigeria.

Paul G. Novak, 46, was ordered to serve 15 months in prison. He appeared in federal court in Texas.

Novak was also ordered to pay a $1 million fine and serve two years of supervised release following his release from prison.

He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one substantive FCPA offense.

In 2008, Houston-based Willbros Group Inc. and Willbros International paid $22 million in an FCPA settlement with the DOJ. The company admitted bribing government officials in Nigeria and Ecuador. Under a deferred prosecution agreement, the charges against the company were dismissed in March 2012. 

From 2003 to 2005, the DOJ said, Novak conspired to pay more than $6 million for contracts for the $387 million Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS) Project -- a natural gas pipeline system in the Niger Delta.

Two Willbros employees had already been jailed for their roles in the EGGS bribery scheme.

In 2006, Jim Bob Brown, a former Willbros executive, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA for bribes in Nigeria and Ecuador. He was sentenced in 2010 to 12 months and one day in prison.

In 2007, Jason Steph, another former Willbros executive, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA for the Nigeria bribes. He was sentenced in 2010 to 15 months in prison.

Kenneth Tillery, a former Willbros International executive vice president, was charged with Novak. Tillery remains a fugitive.

The DOJ alleged that the four men conspired to bribe officials from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the National Petroleum Investment Management Services, a senior official in the executive branch of the federal government of Nigeria, and members of a Nigerian political party. 

The conspirators paid for the bribes by having a Willbros subsidiary enter sham agreements with two consulting companies Novak represented. The consulting companies didn't provide any services but were used to pay the bribes, the DOJ alleged.