The Serious Fraud Office is investigating a company which flies the US flag over the Kellogg Tower, in Greenford near Heathrow airport.
MW Kellogg Ltd is controlled by Halliburton, the US vice-president Dick Cheney’s old firm in Texas.
Investigators want to know whether any of $180m (£98m) in payments ended up in the pockets of Nigerian oil officials.
The money was handed over to an agent, a British high street lawyer, who moved the funds into a Swiss bank. The Guardian has traced a former executive who handled the transactions, Mr Wojciech Chodan.
Speaking at his home in Maidenhead, Berkshire, Mr Chodan confirmed his dealings with the contracts and he had answered to a Houston oil executive. “I reported to Jack Stanley,” he said.
Mr Stanley worked for Halliburton and was promoted to a senior role by Mr Cheney.
It is not suggested that Mr Cheney had personal knowledge of the payments. But he and Halliburton made large profits from the deals to build a gas plant in Nigeria.
The British move follows an inquiry by a French judge, Renaud van Ruymbeke, who has since since been joined in his efforts by a Nigerian parliamentary commission, the US justice department and the security and exchange commission.
If the UK was used as a base for questionable payments, the government would face awkward questions.
At least $23m was allegedly moved to an HSBC Monaco account in June 2002 after payments to foreign officials became illegal in Britain.
The Department of Trade and Industry has also awarded British taxpayer-backed loan guarantees of £133m to MW Kellogg Ltd for part of the oil project. The Export Credit Guarantees Department originally decided there was “no suspicion of corruption”, the trade minister, Mike O’Brien, wrote in May. Subsequently, he said there had been assurances from Halliburton officials that they were “not under investigation themselves and that they believed this was entirely a French investigation into the actions of a French company”.
Halliburton denied saying this yesterday. “We clearly advised the individuals at ECGD that there were investigations in the US and France,” the firm said.
MW Kellogg’s agent, north London solicitor Jeffrey Tesler, is cooperating with the French inquiry and is due to return to Paris next month for further questioning into how a consortium led by the firm acquired $6.7bn of contracts between 1995 and 2002, to build liquefied natural gas plants on Bonny Island in Nigeria.
The consortium with French, Japanese, and Italian partners, was managed from the Kellogg tower in London.