A Milan court on Wednesday accepted evidence sourced from U.S. banking giant JP Morgan as part of the Malabu OPL 245 corruption trial.
The court also accepted evidence of an email allegedly sent by a former Nigerian attorney general, Bello Adoke, from the email address of a company allegedly owned by a “middleman” named in the controversial deal, Abubakar Aliyu.
PREMIUM TIMES understands that despite opposition by the oil companies at the last sitting of the court, the Milan court accepted the evidence, acquired by Milan prosecutors from UK authorities.
Prosecutors argue that Mr Adoke, sent instructions about the transfer of OPL245 1.1$ billion payment by Eni and Shell from email address of a certain A Group Properties, said to be owned by Mr Abubakar.
A statement circulated by Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Wednesday night said the Milan Court denied Mr Adoke’s claim that the email was not his.
HEDA quoted Milan public prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale as saying that “Internal email of senior compliance officer at JPMorgan denies Eni’s claim that the bank got a green light for the transfer of OPL245 money by SOCA, the UK financial intelligence authority preventing money laundering”.
PREMIUM TIMES had last week reported that the prosecutors in Italy requested the Milan court to file documents sourced from U.S. bank JP Morgan and emails allegedly sent by Mr Adoke.
The new evidence accepted by the court Wednesday claimed that the former AGF shared with JPMorgan an unofficial copy of the resolutions agreements of OPL245 signed by the FGN with Eni, Shell and Malabu.
Mr Adoke had in his response last week accused the Italian prosecutor of fabricating evidence against him.
On Wednesday, in a message circulated by his lawyers, the former minister insisted that the evidence accepted by the court was “total forgery”.
“Our client states categorically that the e-mail (copy enclosed) is a total forgery,” he said in the statement by Femi Oboro of Gromyko Amedu Solicitors Wednesday night.
“First of all, the email is dated 21 June 2011. At the time in question, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN was no longer the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minster of Justice. The cabinet had been dissolved by President Goodluck Jonathan and was yet to be re-constituted. The despicable forgers did not do their due diligence before going to town. That is their stock in trade, in any case,” the statement said.
“Secondly, and curiously, in a screenshot of the email being circulated as “new evidence” by Olanrewaju Suraj, who is leading the Nigerian axis of the failed campaign to criminalise and defame Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN, the sender signed off simply as “Mohammed Bello Adoke”. For the record, all our client’s correspondences, whether physical or electronic, are signed off with the suffix “SAN”. At no time did our client sign off any document without using his rank in the legal profession.
“Furthermore, our client would want to point out that he could never have sent an email from another person’s account and signed off with his name. This is completely illogical. Our client has an e-mail account for his personal and for his official matters. Therefore, it is completely non-sensical to expect our client to use another person’s email address.
“Moreover, our client while in office, had at least five aides working with him, and could have sent an email on his behalf assuming that Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN was busy, or had issues with his email account.”
The lawyer said that in Mr Adoke’s view, “the poor work of forgery” exhibited in the email admitted by the court is not the first.
“This is the second time the desperate campaigners are forging “evidence” against our client. In 2017, they came up with a fictious “recorded” phone conversation which Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN was alleged to have had with one Ms Carlamaria Rumor, said to be of RAI Television in Italy. In it, our client was alleged to have told the reporter that he knew the OPL 245 transaction was a presidential scam.
“Those who want to keep collecting huge grants from international donors under the pretext of fighting corruption should continue to do so but they should leave our client’s name out of it. As long as they continue to lie against Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN, he will continue resist every attempt to denigrate our client. At the right time, they will pay dearly for their evil machinations because our client intends to institute legal actions against them home and abroad.”
Anti-graft campaigners react
Lanre Suraj, HEDA Chairman, in his comment Wednesday said “Italy’s system of independent magistrates sets it at the forefront of international fight against corruption.
“Unlike some other jurisdictions, Italian magistrates have prosecuted the OPL 245 case without fear or favour. Milan prosecutors De Pasquale and Spadaro have followed the evidence on OPL245 – even if this has meant taking on two of Europe’s most powerful countries, Eni and Shell. Italians should be proud of the Milan prosecutors. They have greatly enhanced the country’s reputation abroad.”
Lucio Lucia, the lawyer representing Nigeria as civil party, responded to objections of defense.
“Contrary to the claim that Eni’s then CEO Scaroni interrupted negotiations for OPL245, emails show that current CEO Descalzi was instead pushing to go ahead,” he was quoted to have said in a statement by HEDA Wednesday night.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the court adjourned till Feb 24th when Eni and Shell managers and companies’ defense lawyers will have their final response.
The verdict is expected to be delivered on March 17th.
The Malabu OPL 245 scandal is subject to corruption trials in different jurisdictions around the world.
OPL 245, regarded as one of Africa’s richest oil blocks with an estimated over nine billion barrels of crude, was controversially awarded to Malabu in 1998 by the then petroleum minister, Dan Etete.
Mr Etete owned 20 per cent of the block through a fictional character, Kwekwu Amafegha.
The oil block was controversially sold to oil giants, Shell and ENI, in 2011 with a large chunk of the $1.1 billion paid for it ending up in Mr Etete’s accounts, with the latter allegedly using a large chunk of it to bribe officials of both the Nigerian government and those of Shell and ENI.
The matter has become a subject of numerous litigations in Nigeria, UK, Italy and others with anti-corruption officials and advocates saying the deals, including the allocation of the oil block, reeks of fraud.
The Nigerian authorities have charged Messrs Etete, Adoke, and several others linked to Malabu with money laundering in connection with the onward flow of funds from the OPL245 deal.
Messrs Etete, Adoke, Abubakar and other parties accused in the trial, including officials of oil giants Eni and Shell, have denied wrongdoing.
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