06 January 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Federal Government has picked holes in the criminal charges filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against two former ministers, Dan Etete, a former minister of petroleum resources, and Mohammed Adoke (SAN), the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation.
Others allegedly charged with the duo in the criminal charge are one Aliyu Abubakar and several limited liability companies, including Rocky Top Resources Limited, Imperial Union Ltd., Novel Properties & Development Company Ltd., Group Construction Ltd. and Megatech Engineering Ltd.
They were alleged to have been involved in the alleged fraudulent diversion of the sum of $1.1 billion paid by oil giants, Shell and ENI, in respect Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 to which Malabu Oil & Gas Company Ltd, owned by Etete, had laid claim.
A top government source said yesterday that some of the culprits including Shell and ENI who ought to be named in the joint trial were not charged along the other defendants.
The source said further that one of the former ministers laughed at the charges saying that the FG has already indicted itself by the charges.
The charges allege that the defendants aided the commission of money-laundering by fraudulently facilitating the payment and transfer of the said sum of money from an account operated by the Federal Ministry of Justice, to Dan Etete, Malabu Oil, Aliyu Abubakar and the said companies.
It was gathered that to proceed with the charges filed by the EFCC in their present form would violate the fundamental right to fair hearing under Section 36(8) of the 1999 Constitution.
Fraud, according to the source was not a money-laundering offence at the time the acts alleged in the Malabu indictments were purportedly committed.
He noted that “Accordingly, it would be a travesty of justice and a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right of fair hearing to arraign any citizen of Nigeria on the basis of conduct which did not, at the time it was allegedly committed, constitute a criminal offence.
“Given that no criminal law can have retrospective effect, the amendment effected by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012 which made fraud a money-laundering offence is inapplicable to the conduct alleged in the said indictments.”
Beyond this, however, the National Assembly will need to further amend the Act, if it is to achieve the desired results.
It could however not be confirmed at the time of filing this report whether the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) will file fresh charges in respect of alleged fraud relating to the $1.1bn Malabu oil deal.
The Italian authorities have reportedly charged Shell and ENI, along with others, including some Nigerians with offences bordering on the Malabu deal before a court in Milan.