…To face prosecution abroad
…Nigerians demand arrest, investigation and prosecution of those involved
By Our Reporter
A new revelation has been made of how former lawmaker, Senator Ikechukwu Obiora, was paid the sum of $11,465,000, an equivalent of N4.127 billion in what has earlier been described as Africa’s largest petroleum industry scandal in history.
This is even as a source told The Daily Times that Senator Ikechukwu Obiora, is to face prosecution in a European country anytime from now over his role in the sleaze.
Nigeria is currently ranked 136 out of 176 countries in corruption by anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International.
The deal involving Malabu oil fraud centres around former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete, who, while serving as oil minister, secretly acquired rights to OPL 245 through a shadowy front company called Malabu, which later laundered over $1 billion as bribe money to some Nigerian officials when the money was supposed to be channeled into the account of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
From the bulk One Billion Dollars, Etete disbursed some millions of Dollars into the private coffers of top government functionaries to ensure that every part of the deal was tightly sealed.
Apart from Senator Ikechukwu Obiora, other top government functionaries at that time who were said to have benefitted from the criminal deal include Nigerian businessman, Aliyu Abubakar, who withdrew $54,418,000 in cash, while another $466,065,965.44 withdrawn in cash was subsequently funneled to government officials including then Attorney General, Mohammed Bello Adoke, Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Defence and former National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau.
The sum of $10,026,280 was alleged to have been paid to former Attorney General, Christopher Adebayo Ojo, while Ikechukwu Obiorah received $11,465,000 payment on the deal.
According to very reliable sources, the deal was kept away from the Nigerian people while money was paid directly into the pockets of senior Nigerian officials. (Etete was later convicted in a Nigerian court on a separate money laundering probe.)
According to an Italian investigator, Van Beurden, the Dutch police must have found some dirt in the records their raids obtained.
“There was apparently some loose chatter…particularly the people that we hired from MI6 who, must have said things like, ‘Well, yeah, you know, I wonder who gets a pay-off here and whatever.”
According to him, former British intelligence operatives that Shell hired to help navigate the seedy world of West African oil politicking, said the scandal wasn’t just “loose chatter.”
The new investigation revealed that Senior Shell employees openly discussed in email how they knew over $1 billion of their money would go to Etete and others in political kickbacks,
The company decided to move forward with the deal anyway, denying for years up to this point its employees did anything wrong and claiming it only knew it was paying the Nigerian government.
One email from Shell official, Guy Colegate, to colleagues in March, 2010 sums it up: “Etete can smell the money,” Colegate wrote. “If, at nearly 70 years old he does turn his nose up at 1.2 bill he is completely certifiable…but I think he knows it’s [sic] his for the taking. I don’t think he will push it away,” he wrote.
That email was forwarded to then Shell CEO, Peter Voser, one of the world’s most powerful oil executives at the time. No records available show he informed authorities or stood in the way of the deal.
Another Shell advisor, former British intelligence service official, John Copleston, wrote about Etete’s graft plan to senior Shell executives in 2009 as they began laying out various deals for a share of the oil field.
According to him, “E[tete] claims he will only get 40m of the 300m we offering-rest goes in paying people off,” Copleston wrote.
For Shell, the stakes couldn’t have been higher: OPL 245, one of Africa’s most valuable oil fields, contains an estimated nine billion barrels of untapped oil, worth nearly $500 billion even with today’s bargain bin oil prices. Its eventual purchase boosted the world’s fifth-largest company’s proven reserves by a third (proven reserves are a key statistic for shareholders).
The field has been at the centre of legal battles since 1998, when Etete first acquired rights to it through his front company. Months before it finally sealed the deal in 2011, Shell had to pay $30 million in a separate settlement on bribery charges in Nigeria.
Now the Anglo-Dutch oil giant was in the lurch once again. “This dawn raid is, I won’t say premature, but it’s, we were not, we hadn’t concluded our own work,” van Beurden said, referring to an internal Shell investigation.
They then mulled whether they should inform the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of the predawn raid, but opted against it because it would be “share price sensitive.”
“At this point in time, everything seems to be share price sensitive,” Henry said on the phone, chuckling.
Shell has continued to deny wrongdoing in the Malabu business and any knowledge of improper payments to Malabu or other person or authority.
“It is Shell’s position that none of those payments were made with its knowledge,” the company said recently.
On Monday, after Global Witness issued a new report outlining the findings of the leaked documents, a Shell spokesman appeared to walk back that position in an email statement.
“Over time, it became clear to us that Etete was involved in Malabu and that the only way to resolve the impasse through a negotiated settlement was to engage with Etete and Malabu, whether we liked it or not,” the spokesman said.
He added: “We believe that the settlement was a fully legal transaction.” Shell did not dispute the veracity of the leaked documents.
According to the new report, Eni officials also received funds in retrocession (in essence, reimbursement for multiple layers of insurance after a deal goes through). One, Chief Development — Operations & Technology Officer, Roberto Casula, received $50 million delivered in cash.
In Italy, prosecutors have recommended Casula and Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi stand trial in the corruption case.
The Eni board issued a statement saying they retained “total confidence” in Descalzi. Eni also released a statement saying it was complying with authorities but denied any wrongdoing. Representatives of Voser, Etete, and Jonathan haven’t yet issued any statements about the revelations.
But a security consultant, Mazi Wilson Chikezie told The Daily Times that it was time President Buhari ends the Malabu matter once and for all by investigating who did what against Nigeria in the transaction.
“Having won the 2019 presidential election, President Buhari does not owe anybody any apology or obligation.
He just has to do the needful. It is only Buhari that can solve the Malabu puzzle and the way out of it is to investigate anybody involved and bring them to book,” he said.