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Largest Private Contractor in Iraq to Move Headquarters Out of U.S.

Halliburton, an American oil services company and the largest private contractor in Iraq, is moving its corporate headquarters from Houston, in the U.S. state of Texas to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Halliburton's chief executive says the move is a practical matter, but critics are accusing the company of greed. VOA's Peter Fedynsky has this report.

Last year, the eastern hemisphere accounted for 38 per cent of the $13 billion in revenue from Halliburton's oil field services around the globe. Chief Executive David Lesar says growing the business in a region where most of the oil is located "will bring balance to Halliburton's overall portfolio."

In an interview three years ago, Lesar described parts of that portfolio. "We're building a road in Ireland, we're running a railroad in Australia, we're building ships in Brazil."

And Halliburton has a five-year, $16 billion contract to provide various services to the U.S. military. But the corporation is under investigation for allegedly overbilling the U.S. government by nearly $3 billion. Halliburton denies the charges, but congressional Democrats are looking into them.

Congressman Henry Waxman of California said recently, "Our committee has an absolute obligation to the taxpayers to make sure their tax dollars are well spent and not siphoned off into billions of dollars of unnecessary overhead."

And Senator Brian Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, suspects Halliburton is relocating in Dubai to avoid paying U.S. taxes. "If they're trying to move offshore to save money in taxes, that's not much of a statement coming from a company that's been benefiting from substantial defense contracts."

Halliburton says it will remain registered in the United States, so it will be obligated to pay taxes.

American University business professor Kathleen Getz says Halliburton's move to Dubai is a smart decision. "Since Halliburton is an oil exploration company, it is logical for it to be in the Middle East, where there is a lot of oil."

Questions are also being raised whether a company with headquarters overseas can be trusted to provide services to the U.S. military.

Halliburton was run by Dick Cheney before he became the U.S. vice president. Cheney's connection led to accusations that the Bush administration awarded lucrative no-bid contracts to the company. The White House denied the charge.