24 February 2019, Sweetcrude, Lagos — A London high court has given Nigeria the go-ahead on its case against the US bank, JPMorgan Chase, which it accuses of aiding the misappropriation $875m belonging to the country over the controversial Oil Prospecting License, OPL, 245.
OPL 245, belonging to a former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete, has for years been at the centre of controversy over its award and later sale, for which multinational oil companies Royal Dutch Shell and Eni have been involved in corruption investigations in Milan, Italy
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, disclosed news of the development from the London court on Friday in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah.
The minister said in the statement that with the ruling of the court, Nigeria could now move on to trial against the US bank.
The high court presided by Justice Andrew Burrows had in a 26-page verdict on Thursday ruled that Nigeria had “reasonable grounds” for bringing a claim to the commercial division of the high court.
Referring to payments made to some officials by the bank for which the Nigeria government is claiming the bank did illegally, the judge said the bank ought to have suspected the payments were fraudulent and therefore had a duty to protect the Federal Republic of Nigeria until its concerns were cleared up.
The further said: “That duty of care entails that the defendant bank could not simply follow the mandate of abiding by the instructions given by the claimant because the bank’s duty of care, as its core, was to protect the claimant against being defrauded by not paying out unless and until it was ‘off inquiry”.
JPMorgan Chase reportedly argued earlier this month that Nigeria’s case should be dismissed on the grounds that it received sufficient approvals from Nigerian authorities before allowing the transfer of funds from a government account to those controlled by the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Dan Etete who has been convicted outside Nigeria of money laundering.
The payments, after a 2011 settlement, aimed to end several years of battle over the ownership of controversial oil licence.