Alleged $125 million crude oil scam unsettles NNPC

Alleged $125 million crude oil scam unsettles NNPC

Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) has stated its own side of the story on an alleged plot by “an international crime syndicate to extort and defraud” the oil firm and the Federal Government of $125 million.

Daily Times gathered that this was contained in a statement by its counsel, Afe Babalola & Co. The statement noted that the NNPC was “aware of several television broadcasts and commentaries in respect of the same subject. These publications replicate the content of a recent letter forwarded to NNPC on behalf of SAMANO SA DE CV by its Solicitors, Messrs. Lords & Temple.” It stated “emphatically that these publications are replete with falsehoods, offensive, golddigging and a calculated attempt by the said SAMANO SA DE CV (SAMANO) working in concert with its local and international agents to intimidate, blackmail and extort money from the Federal Government of Nigeria and NNPC.” It explained that investigation on the matter led to the filing of Charge No.: FCT/HC/BU/ CR/134/2019 between Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Marco Antonio Ramirez & 4 Others at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Some of the offences in the charge are criminal conspiracy, forgery, extortion and attempt to obtain money by false pretence.”

It added: “NNPC also understands that Mr Ramirez and his cohorts are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for other unrelated offences at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in Charge No: FCT/HC/CR/147/2016 and the Federal High Court, Lagos in Charge No: ID/2763/2016.

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“SAMANO first contacted officials of the Federal Government of Nigeria sometime in 2015 indicating that it had been approached by an unnamed group in the People’s Republic of China to buy 48 Million Barrels of Nigerian Crude Oil which they believed to have been stolen from Nigeria. According to SAMANO, this crude had been stolen and shipped to China before the inception of President Buhari’s administration in 2015.

“SAMANO requested that it be allowed to purchase the stolen crude after its recovery by the Federal Government. Shortly thereafter, SAMANO indicated that it was not interested in buying the said stolen crude as it only obliged the Federal Government with the information to assist the President Buhari-led administration’s fight against corruption.

“The Federal Government and NNPC receive hundreds of spurious claims of this nature daily, and they always turn out to be false. NNPC also believed that based on the operations and state of the international crude oil market in 2015, it was impossible to ship 48 Million Barrels of Crude Oil from Nigeria to China without any record or trace of same.

“For context, as of 2015, the daily production of crude oil in Nigeria was below 1.6 million barrels. Therefore, 48 million barrels of crude oil would have been the total production capacity of the country for a whole month. It was and remains simply impossible for one-month crude oil production for the entire country to disappear without any record or trace from the shores of the country.

“NNPC was also aware that as at the material time and considering the fact that the People’s Republic of China is one of the most regulated economies in the world, the export of Crude Oil from Nigeria to China was exclusively undertaken by four known companies approved by, under the control, ownership, and management of the Chinese Government. It would, therefore, have been impossible to transport 48 Million Barrels of Crude Oil from Nigeria to China without the active involvement of the said companies.

“Again, from an economic perspective, it made little sense that anyone would store that volume of Crude Oil in China for such a considerable period having regard to the attendant significant storage costs. It is noteworthy that the Chinese Government had, through its officials, stated emphatically in response to this allegation at different fora including the United Nations General Assembly that there was NO stolen Nigerian Crude Oil stored in any port or terminal or storage facility in China.

“Despite these reservations and in view of the fact that transparency, accountability, the fight against corruption and the recovery of the country’s looted resources have been integral components of State policy under the administration of his Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Federal Government of Nigeria set up the Presidential Committee on Recovery of Stolen Nigerian Crude Oil in response to the claims made by several companies including SAMANO over alleged stolen Nigerian Crude Oil stored in China.

“The said Presidential Committee requested that SAMANO furnish it with evidence in proof of its allegations to enable it to investigate and verify its claim. Still, SAMANO refused, neglected or failed to provide the Committee with any cogent and verifiable evidence in support of its allegations.

“Notwithstanding the failure of SAMANO to produce verifiable evidence in support of its allegations, for completeness, relevant officials were mandated to pay an in-person visit to China and further investigate SAMANO’s claim.

“During this fact-finding trip to China, it was discovered that SAMANO’s claim was false as there were no 48 Million Barrels of stolen Nigerian Crude Oil or any stolen Nigerian Crude Oil in any port, terminal or storage facility in China. It was also discovered that all the documents previously presented by SAMANO in support of its claims were not genuine. A report of this finding was issued by the Committee to Mr. President. “Consequently, the Federal Government terminated all communications with SAMANO as it became apparent that its claim was a hoax. When SAMANO realized that the Federal Government was no longer interested in the nonexistent stolen crude, it resorted to blackmail and intimidation of key officials of the Government. SAMANO threatened that it would publicize the fact that the non-existent crude had been recovered, sold and proceeds looted by senior government officials and other personalities when it knew this was absolute falsehood.

“SAMANO made several demands including the demand that it be paid the sum of $125,000,000:00 (One Hundred and Twenty-Five Million United States Dollars) by the government officials to prevent it from disclosing this false information to the public. This demand soon metamorphosed into harassment as SAMANO embarked on a mischievous exercise to embarrass the Federal Government of Nigeria on international media platforms and before several international institutions like the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) all in a calculated bid to blackmail the Federal Government of Nigeria and NNPC into paying it a significant amount of money as compensation.

“As a result of the constant harassment, NNPC was constrained to make a formal report to the Department of State Security (DSS) and Nigeria Police while other victims wrote petitions in respect of the same subject to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation

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Omotayo Yusuf

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