28 January 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has given an indication that it will soon prefer criminal charges against the oil giant, Shell and Agip, as well as other suspects allegedly involved in the $1.1bn Malabu oil scam.
The anti-graft agency gave this indication in an affidavit it filed before a Federal High Court, Abuja, in support of an ex parte application seeking interim forfeiture to the Federal Government, the controversial Prospecting License (OPL 245), which is at the centre of the whole scam.
The OPL 245, an oil field believed to be the largest in Africa with over nine billion barrels of crude, was said to have been fraudulently obtained from the Federal Government by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited in 1998 and afterwards offered to oil giants, Shell and Agip, in a shady deal.
Justice John Tsoho, granted the order of interim forfeiture of the OPL 245, shortly after EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Johnson Ojogbane, moved the ex parte application requesting the order on Thursday.
While moving the application which was dated and filed on January 11, 2017, Ojogbane urged the court to grant the order of interim forfeiture of the oil block “pending the investigation and prosecution” of the suspects named in the scam.
Ojogbane, in his second prayer, sought “an interim order of this honourable court directing that the property is known as Oil Prospecting License (OPL 245) be managed by the Department of Petroleum Resources on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria pending the conclusion of investigation and prosecution” of the suspects.
“The application is granted as prayed,” Justice Tsoho ruled after hearing the EFCC’s lawyer on Thursday.
Though the EFCC had earlier on December 20, 2016, filed charges against some of the suspects, including the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, the order obtained by the EFCC on Thursday appeared to have set the stage for prosecution of more suspects.
The additional suspects named in the application were Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration Limited, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited “and other individuals”.
Ojogbane had told Justice Tsoho that the suspects were being investigated “in connection with acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering” in connection with the OPL 245 scam.
The EFCC, in its affidavit, filed in support of its ex parte motion for the interim forfeiture of the OPL 245, stated that it was in the process of “preferring a further charge” against “Shell Nigeria and Nigeria Agip Exploration.”
An operative of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Ahmed, who deposed to the affidavit, narrated the roles of various individuals, including Etete and Adoke, and other corporate organisations in the alleged fraud.
The EFCC operative stated in part, “Investigation further revealed that Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and the Federal Government was defrauded by SPDC (Shell) and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd by underpaying the sum of $210m as signature bonuses on OPL 245.
“Investigation conducted revealed that Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and SPDC secured OPL 245 by a fraudulent scheme involving high scale bribery and corruption by top management of the company.”
Ahmed, who revealed details of the outcome of investigations conducted on the scam by the EFCC and its foreign partners, stated that Italian police had conducted “extensive investigation on the fraud committed by Shell Nigeria, Agip and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, culminating in a criminal charge at the Ordinary Court of Milan”.
Those charged by Italian police, according to EFCC, were “Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Eni Spa, and one Scaroni, who was its Managing Director, Descalzi was also the General Manager Exploration of Eni.
Ahmed said others being prosecuted in Italy were “Casula and Armana who were senior executives of Nigeria Agip Oil Company and one Dan Etete and other co-conspirators”.
Giving indication that Shell and Agip would also be charged in Nigeria, the anti-graft agency stated, “The Federal Government of Nigeria has filed a criminal charge with number FHC/ABJ/CR/268/2016 against Dan Etete and two others five Nigerian companies.
“In furtherance of paragraph 10 above the Federal Government of Nigeria is in process of preferring a further charge bordering on conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering against Shell Nigeria and Nigeria Agip Exploration.”
The EFCC’s operative said investigation by the commission revealed that Malabu Oil and Gas Limited was incorporated in Nigeria in April 1998, with shareholders, namely Mohammed Sani allegedly fronting for his father, the then Head of State, the late Gen. Sani Abacha; one Kweku Amafegha, said to be representing Dan Etete, who was then the Minister of Petroleum Resources; and Hassan Hindu “on behalf of Ambassador Adamu”.
Shortly after Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd was incorporated, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources was said to have offered “deep water oil block prospecting license in respect of OPL 245” to the company in line with Federal Government’s indigenous policy in the upstream sector.
Alleging fraud in the offer of OPL 245 to Malabu, the EFCC stated that “all known government regulations were awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas even before a formal application was submitted by the company”.
The shareholding structure of the company was said to have been altered “severally through forged board resolutions” after Abacha’s death.
The shareholding series of restructuring was said to have eventually led to the divestment of Mohammed Sani (Abacha’s son) of his shares and giving control of the company to Etete with new shareholders and directors appointed “fraudulently”.
However, the Federal Government during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, in 2001, withdrew the title and allocation of OPL 245 from Malabu.
The anti-graft agency said Malabu later sued the Federal Government challenging the revocation, and that a settlement was reached among parties to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
It said, “Shell and Agip again went into a fraudulent agreement with Malabu Oil and Gas in which the companies will pay a signature bonus of $210m to the Federal Government of Nigeria while the sum of $1.2bn would be paid to the owners of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
“Shell Petroleum was later to explain that the payment was for compensation but an investigation conducted revealed that the money was a bribe to Dan Etete and his cronies.
“That Shell was aware that at the time of consummating this transaction that Dan Etete, the owner of Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd was already a convict and hence was not willing to pay the said sum of $1.2bn directly to Dan Etete and or Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd. directly.”
On Adoke’s role, the EFCC said the lawyer, before becoming the AGF, was Federal Government’s counsel “in series of Arbitration instituted by Shell in London on the said oil well”.
According to EFCC, when Adoke later became the AGF, “conspired with Shell/Agip to route the payment of the said sum of $1.2bn bribe money through Federal Government Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank.”
Adoke, as the AGF, was said to have consummated the transaction ignoring the Department of Petroleum Resources’ April 1, 2011, letter in response to his request for guidance, advising “against the transaction on the ground that it was highly prejudicial to the interest of the Federal Government of Nigeria”.
Adoke’s letter with reference number HAGF/FMPR/2011/Vol.1/12 seeking advice from the DPR was said to have dated February 9, 2011, while the DPR’s response with reference number PI.LD/880.T advising against the transaction was said to have dated April 1, 2011.
Adoke allegedly ignored DPR’s advice and went ahead to consummate the transaction involving Shell Ultra Deep Sea, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigeria AGIP Exploration and Production Company otherwise known as SNEPCO.
The EFCC added, “Despite this advice, the then Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation Mohammed Adoke approved the payment of the said sum of $1.2bn bribe money through the Federal Government Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London.
“Sometime in May 2011, Nigeria Agip Exploration and SNEPCO instructed Chase Bank to release the said sum of $1,092,040,000 into Escrow Account of the Federal Government.
“The said money on the instruction of the then AGF Mohammed Adoke was transferred from the Escrow account to two banks namely First Bank and Keystone Bank (accounts) operated by Dan Etete and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.”
The anti-graft agency said the said sum of $1.1bn “was later laundered with several accounts of individuals and different companies” as “investigation further revealed that the Federal Government was defrauded by SPDC and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited underpaying the sum of $210m as the signature bonus on OPL 245”.
The EFCC had on December 20, 2016, charged nine suspects, including Adoke, with respect to the $1.1bn scam.
Other accused persons named in the charges filed by the EFCC before a Federal High Court in Abuja, were Etete, Aliyu Abubakar, Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd, Rocky Top Resource Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd, Novel Properties & Dev. Co. Ltd, Group Construction Ltd, Megatech Engineering Ltd.
The anti-graft agency, in the charges with suit number, FHC/ABJ/CR/268/2016, accused Adoke of illegally transferring over $800m purportedly meant for the purchase of the OPL 245 to Etete, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited from a Federal Government account.
The EFCC also accused Aliyu, an oil magnate, who is the Chairman of A. A. Group and Rocky Top Services, of receiving $336,456,906.78.