Former President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday dismissed reports suggesting he might have received $200 million in bribes to approve the controversial Malabu oil deal.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Ikechukwu Eze, the former president said the reports were aimed at rubbishing his name “locally and internationally.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr. Jonathan might have received up to $200 million in bribes to approve the deal that has now become subject of international investigation.
The report was based on Italian court documents obtained by BuzzFeed and Italian business newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore.
In the documents, Italian prosecutors quoted Ednan Agaev, a Russian middleman who helped negotiate the transfer of the oil block to Shell and Eni, as saying that Dan Etete, the former Petroleum Minister at the heart of the oil scandal, said he intended to dole out as much as $400 million in bribes if the deal went through.
If Mr. Etete actually paid out such an amount in bribes to Nigerian officials, “Agaev stated that he would think President Goodluck Jonathan got at least $200 million of this money,” BuzzFeed quoted an excerpt of FBI submissions to Italian authorities as saying.
The revelations were made when the FBI interviewed Mr. Agaev, whom prosecutors also said met with Mr. Jonathan on more than one occasion in Nigeria during the OPL 245 negotiations.
Mr. Agaev, who was Mr. Etete’s representative in the negotiation, said the convicted former petroleum minister told him of the $400 million bribe to Nigerian politicians when he approached him for his payment.
The Russian also repeated the claim in a follow-up interview with Italian prosecutors, led by Fabio De Pasquale in Milan.
“I said that if it’s true, that he paid, he had to pay 400 million, I assume that at least 200 went to Goodluck (Jonathan).”
“I heard from Chief (Etete), he claims that he had to pay 400 million, so, if this is true, if he paid 400 million, then most probably the President, as the biggest boss, took at least the half of it,” BuzzFeed wrote, quoting documents prepared by Italian prosecutors.
Mr. Jonathan downplayed the report as “hearsay evidence from a man of questionable character who provided no substance to back up his false claim,” in reference to Mr. Agaev.
Mr. Jonathan also denied he ever tutored Mr. Etete’s children in the late 1990s, contrary to what BuzzFeed quoted some Shell officials as saying.
“Jonathan couldn’t have been anybody’s private tutor during that period, because he was already in the directorate cadre in Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC (now NDDC), having already left the academia, at the time Etete was a serving minister,” the statement said.
The former president had earlier reacted to the scandal in a January 10 statement by Mr. Eze.
“We wish to make it clear that former President Jonathan was not accused, indicted or charged for corruptly collecting any monies as kickbacks or bribes from ENI by the Italian authorities or any other law enforcement body the world over,” the statement said.
While Mr. Jonathan and officials that served under him continue to deny any wrongdoing, Shell, the global oil firm that desperately wanted control of the OPL 245, on Monday admitted it knew the $1.1 billion it paid alongside ENI for the block would be used as kickback to settle Mr. Etete, a convicted money launderer.
On Monday, the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating the OPL 245 deal, said it would summon Mr. Jonathan to testify following latest revelations.
“I can confirm that the former president is now on our radar following new details that were uncovered in latest news reports about the Malabu scandal,” Razak Atunwa, the committee chairman, told PREMIUM TIMES.