The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday filed a three-count charge against two multinational oil firms, Shell and ENI, for their roles in the $1.1 billion Malabu oil scam.
The EFCC had in December filed related charges against two former Nigerian ministers, Mohammed Adoke and Dan Etete, and others after concluding investigations on the 2011 controversial sale of OPL 245.
The alleged fraud committed by the ex-Nigerian officials and officials of the oil firms, has also led to investigations and charges in Italy.
The EFCC had also secured a court order ensuring the return of the OPL 245 to the Nigerian government, pending the determination of the court case against the defendants.
Although Shell and ENI have appealed that court order obtained on January 26, both companies were not charged for their roles by the Nigerian government until Thursday.
The defendants according to the fresh charge include the Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited; Nigerian Agip Exploration Limited; ENI SPA: the then directors of the oil firms, Ralph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujati Stefeno, and Burrafato Sebastiano; Dauzia Lauya also known as Dan Etete;Mohammed Adoke; Aliyu Abubakar, and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
Messrs Casula and Etete were also among those indicted by Italian prosecutors who have indicated their intentions to file charges against them.
According to the charges filed on Thursday, the defendants were accused of committing the crime of conspiracy to commit felony against the provisions of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences, ICPC, Act.
The oil firms and their then directors were also alleged to have fraudulently paid $801 million to Messrs. Adoke, Etete, Aliyu, and Malabu for the oil block.
OPL 245 is considered one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks and estimated to contain over nine billion barrels of crude.
Investigations had revealed that former President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the handing over of OPL 245 to Malabu, shortly after assuming office in 2010.
According to investigations, Mr. Jonathan asked the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, to solidify the transfer of OPL 245 to Malabu, a company then controlled by a fellow Nigerian from the Niger-Delta region, Dan Etete.
Despite Mr. Jonathan’s directive that Malabu be given OPL 245, the company really did not exist and had no staff or technical competence to manage the block. Based on advice from desperate businessmen, including an Israeli, Ednan Agaev, Mr. Etete decided to cash in on the block.
Through various middlemen, the former minister approached oil giants, Shell and ENI, to buy the block. Knowing Mr. Etete’s history, including the fact that he had been convicted in France for money laundering, the oil firms would not do a direct deal.
For the transaction to continue, a legally recognised mediator would have to be found.
That mediator turned out to be the Nigerian government, represented by Mr. Adoke.
The agreements that were sealed led to Shell and ENI paying the $1.1 billion into a Nigerian government account in JP Morgan Chase in London. The money was to then be transferred to Malabu accounts controlled by Mr. Etete.
Although Shell and ENI have repeatedly claimed they did not know the money was going to end up with Malabu, investigations in Nigeria and Italy as well as leaked documents revealed that claim to be false. Mr. Adoke himself would later admit that he, on behalf of the federal government, only acted as a mediator for two willing parties – Malabu and the oil majors. Mr. Adoke was, however, aware of the various fraudulent manipulations of Malabu by Mr. Etete when he authorised the transaction, multiple sources have told PREMIUM TIMES.
TRANSFERS TO FRAUDULENT FIRMS
To ensure no one stopped the shady transfer of the $1.1 billion to Mr. Etete, the money had to be quickly transferred. More so, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was set to assume office as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and the officials involved were not sure she would play ball.
On August 16, 2011, a day before Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was to assume office, Mr. Adoke and the then Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, authorised the transfer of the money to Malabu accounts in Nigeria controlled by Mr. Adoke. However, all the $1.1 billion could not be transferred. Emeka Obi, a man who claimed he helped broker the deal between Malabu and the oil majors filed a suit in the UK, that ensured $215 million was frozen of the money. The remaining $801 million was subsequently transferred to Mr. Etete: $400 million was transferred to a Bank PHB account while $401 million was transferred to a First Bank account.
Immediately Mr. Etete received the money, curious transfers began. PREMIUM TIMES investigations, now confirmed by the EFCC, reveal that shady companies linked to Abubakar Aliyu received about $479 million dollars from Mr. Etete. Our investigations later showed that most of the companies were non-existent and used fake addresses in their registration documents.
The companies – Rocky Top Resource Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd, Novel Properties & Dev. Co. Ltd, A-Group Construction Ltd, and Megatech Engineering Ltd – were all charged in the suit filed by the EFCC last December.
While Mr. Etete later admitted that only $250 million of the money paid into his account was his, Mr. Aliyu is believed to have acted as a front for officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, including Mr. Adoke.