All is set for the legal battle over the alleged $801million Malabu oil deal bribe.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday filed charges against a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Chief Dan Etete, a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Bello Adoke (SAN) and a businessman, Aliyu Abubakar.
Also charged are eight others.
The others are: Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited; Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited; ENI SPA; Malabu Oil and Gas Limited; Ralph Wetzels (ex- director of SNEPCO), Casula Roberto (Italian) and director of AGIP; Pujatti Stefeno(Italian) and director in AGIP; and Burafato Sebastiano (Italian).
A United Kingdom (UK) anti-corruption group, Global Witness, claimed that $523million of the bribe was paid to some fronts of a former president.
The charge sheet, dated February 28, states that all the accused persons will be arraigned before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja Division.
No date has been fixed for their arraignment.
All the 11 suspects will face three charges bordering on alleged official corruption of about $801million.
According to the charges filed by the EFCC legal team, comprising Johnson Ojogbane, H.M. Mohammed and Victor Ukagwu, all the accused persons are to face trial for alleged:
conspiracy, contrary to Section 26 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 12 of the same Act; and
official corruption contrary to Section 9 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 9 (b) of the same Act.
The particulars of the offence are as follows:
“That you Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, ENI SPA, Ralph Wetzels (whilst being director of SNEPCO), Casula Roberto (Italian) whilst being the director of AGIP; Pujatti Stefeno (Italian) while being the director in AGIP; Burafato Sebastiano(Italian), while being a Director with AGIP; Douzia Louya Etete(a.k.a Dan Etete); Mohammed Bello Adoke; Aliyu Abubakar and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited sometime in 2011 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit: Official corruption and thereby committed an offence.
“That you Douzia Louya Etete(a.k.a Dan Etete), Mohammed Bello Adoke; Aliyu Abubakar and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited sometime in 2011 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court corruptly received the aggregate sum of $801million in relation to the grant of Oil Prospecting Licence in respect of OPL 245 from Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited and ENI SPA and thereby committed an offence.
“That you Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, ENI SPA, Ralph Wetzels(whilst being Director of SNEPCO), Casula Roberto(Italian) whilst being the Director of AGIP; Pujatti Stefeno(Italian) while beinmg the Director in AGIP; Burafato Sebastiano(Italian), while being a Director with AGIP; Douzia Louya Etete(a.k.a Dan Etete); Mohammed Bello Adoke; Aliyu Abubakar and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited sometime in 2011 within the jurisdiction of this court corruptly gave the aggregate sum of $801million to Douzia Louya Etete(a.k.a Dan Etete) , Mohammed Bello Adoke; Aliyu Abubakar and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited on account of the grant of Oil Prospecting Licence in respect of OPL 245 and thereby committed an offence.”
This is the second time some of the accused persons will be facing trial.
The EFCC on December 20, 2016 filed nine charges bordering on alleged mismanagement of $1,616,690,656.78 Malabu Oil cash against Adoke, Etete, Abubakar, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited; Rocky Top Resources Limited; Imperial Union Limited; Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, Group Construction Limited and Megatech Engineering Limited.
The nine-count charge was filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The charges came barely 48 hours after ENI SPA insisted that the sale of OPL 245(Malabu Oil Block) was not fraudulent.
The Board of Directors of Eni(Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited) claimed that all transactions relating to the $1,616,690,656.78 Malabu oil block were clean.
The oil firm said it arrived at the conclusion after commissioning forensic investigations into the controversy over the sale of the oil block.
It said an independent United States law firm conducted the investigations and returned a not guilty verdict.
The statement said: “Eni’s Board of Directors today takes note of the outcome of further forensic investigations into the 2011 transaction between Eni and Shell and the Nigerian Government for the acquisition of the OPL 245 licence in Nigeria.
The investigations were conducted by an independent US law firm. They were commissioned by Eni’s Board of Statutory Auditors and Watch Structure.
“The investigations examined the new materials and further information filed by the Milan prosecutors as part of the closure of the investigation in December 2016.
“The law firm confirms the conclusions reached by previous investigations in 2015, stating that there is no evidence of corrupt conduct in relation to the transaction.
Eni’s Board of Directors confirmed its total confidence that neither the company nor its CEO Claudio Descalzi were involved in alleged illicit conduct under investigation.”
Global Witness had alleged that about $523million of the $1.1billion paid by Shell and Eni for Malabu Oil Block (OPL 245) went to some fronts of a former president.
It said the deal deprived the country of a sum equivalent to 80% of its 2015 health budget in a country where more than 60% of the population live in poverty.
The group made the disclosures in a statement by its Director, Simon Taylor.
It also wrote a letter to the EFCC not to waiver in its determination to probe the sale of the oil block.
The statement said: “We applaud the Nigerian authorities for fighting back against corruption without fear or favour, making sure there are real consequences for taking part in shady deals like with OPL 245.”
“The lucrative OPL 245 oil block was allocated in 1998 for $20m – a fraction of its value now – to Malabu Oil & Gas, a company secretly owned by the then oil Minister, Etete.
“The OPL 245 block, off the coast of Nigeria is owned 50-50 by Shell and Eni and contains probable reserves of 9.23 billion barrels of oil, representing potentially massive bookable reserves for the companies.
“Shell currently holds 11.75 billion barrels of proven oil equivalent reserves and Eni holds 6.89 billion barrels of proven oil equivalent reserves.
“The block was eventually passed on to Shell and Eni in 2011 in exchange for a payment of $1.1bn which flowed to Malabu rather than to the Nigerian state.
“The former Minister of Justice Adoke by his own account acted as a broker in the deal. This deal deprived the country of a sum equivalent to 80% of its 2015 health budget in a country where more than 60% of the population live in poverty.
”Shell and Eni have always denied that they knew the money they paid would go to Malabu, but documents seen by Global Witness show that the companies in fact constructed the deal knowing that the money would flow ultimately to Malabu.
“Prosecutors in the UK have previously alleged that $523m of Shell and Eni’s payment went to alleged “fronts for former President of Nigeria (names withheld) as part of a deal that was effectively a “smash and grab” on Nigeria.
In a separate letter, the group praised the Acting EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu for the “sterling investigatory work” by the commission on the Malabu oil deal.
The letter said Global witness was “ delighted to read press reports that former Attorney-General Mohammed Bello Adoke, Chief Etete and others have been implicated by the EFCC for fraud and money laundering in respect of the OPL 245 oil deal.
The letter added: “We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our admiration for the sterling investigatory work by the EFCC, under your leadership, that has brought this case to court.
“We believe that the case will send a powerful message to the world that Nigeria is intent on prosecuting corruption without fear or favour.”
The anti-corruption group however noted the reactions of some key actors in the Settlement Agreement on the oil block.
It added: “In a statement, Mohammed Adoke said ‘I hope to at the appropriate time make myself available to defend the charge for what whatever its worth.’ He also emphasised that he did not benefit from the deal, which he said saved the government from a breach of contract suit in which Shell was claiming $2 billion.
“He called the charges “orchestrated plans to bring me to public disrepute in order to satisfy the whims and caprices of some powerful interests on revenge mission.”
“Shell has insisted that they did not pay Malabu directly and that all payments went to an escrow account held by the Government of Nigeria.
“In a response to a request for comment from Global Witness in April 2015, Shell said “We do not agree with the premise behind various public statements made by Global Witness about Shell companies in relation to OPL 245.” It has not responded to more recent requests to comment.
Eni responded to questions on the deal in May 2016 saying “Independent enquiries and the investigations commissioned by Eni’s Watch Structure and Board of Statutory Auditors from specialized American law firms have found no evidence of illegal conduct on the part of the Company.”
“Antonio Tricarico of Re:Common said “The Italian Government must ask serious questions of the involvement of Senior Eni executives in a deal that has now lead to senior Nigerian officials being charged with criminal offences.”