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OPL 245 Malabu Scandal

Malabu Scandal: Jonathan, Etete, Aliyu, Adoke had long-standing relationships, says Italian prosecutor

The major parties mentioned in the controversial Malabu scandal were involved in sundry corrupt activities, Sergio Spadaro, the Public Prosecutor of Milan, told a Milan court on Thursday.

The prosecutor also said that major Nigerian officials named in the controversial deal all had long-standing relationships.

According to activists working with anti-corruption group, Re:Common, who were at the hearing Thursday, Mr Spadaro made this known while going through evidence against the defendants in the controversial deal in Milan.

“OPL 245 is an old story, but we focused on a period from autumn 2009 – when Shell and Malabu were still discussing a possible settlement,” began Mr Spadaro.

“Then late 2009, ENI steps in with Emeka Obi joining the negotiation. Two offers filed. Goodluck Jonathan becomes (sic) president in May 2010.”

Explaining further, the prosecutor alleged that Mr Jonathan, a former Nigerian president; Dan Etete, who allocated OPL 245 to Malabu Oil and Gas even when he had stake as Nigeria’s minister of petroleum; Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum when the oil block was sold to Shell and Eni by Malabu in 2011; Mohammed Adoke, Nigeria’s attorney-general at the time; and other parties all had long-standing relationships.

For instance, he explained that Mr Adoke was once a lawyer to Mr Etete before he was appointed by Mr Jonathan in 2010. It was also reiterated that Ednan Agaev, another witness and former Russian diplomat, had claimed that Mr Etete told him that Mr Jonathan was a teacher to his (Etete’s) sons.

Similarly, Aliyu Abubakar, the middleman at the centre of the agreements, was said to have a long-time relationship that was not “occasional” with Mr Jonathan.

Mr Spadaro thereafter went further to explain the details of how the oil block was allocated under shady deals, adding that most of the oil licences awarded in 1998 were “illegitimate” as most beneficiaries never paid the required signature bonuses.

Speaking further, Mr Spadaro spoke about how Mr Adoke allegedly bought a house worth N500 million for N300 million, suggesting that the differential was settled under questionable circumstances.

He also said Eni’s due diligence report from a private intelligence company The Risk Advisory Group (TRAG) revealed Mr Etete’s involvement in Malabu, adding that Shell staff noted in an internal email that Mr Etete had to be “satisfied” and the new oil minister, the late Rilwan Lukman, was “on the take”.

Making copious reference to internal emails within the oil giant, Mr Spadaro insisted that Shell knew Mr Etete would benefit from the proceeds of oil block sale despite the denial.

He also alleged that former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, allowed the 2006 settlement agreement to return the revoked oil block to Malabu because he needed Mr Etete to support the 2007 election, in which he had an anointed successor, Umaru Yar’Adua. But the late Mr Yar’adua was said not to be “so supportive of Etete.”

On his part, Aliyu Gusau, former national security adviser, was alleged to have schemed to gain from the transaction with his involvement.

On Thursday, the court adjourned the trial to July 21.

Scandal

The controversial Malabu deal was struck in 2011 under former President Goodluck Jonathan. The arrangement saw the Nigerian government stand as a negotiator in the controversial sale of the oil block, OPL 245, in offshore Nigerian waters.

Two international oil firms, Shell and Eni, paid out about $1.1 billion to Nigerian government accounts in the UK which then transferred most of the money to Malabu, a company then controlled by Nigeria’s former petroleum minister, Dan Etete.

It was Mr Etete’s Malabu that transferred the over $500 million to accounts controlled by Abubakar Aiyu, who is also being prosecuted in Nigeria for his role in the scandal.

The payout immediately became a subject of cross-border investigation spanning over six countries. Several Nigerian government officials were believed to have received several millions of dollars in bribes for the enabling roles they played.

A larger trial including Shell, Eni and 13 other defendants is ongoing in Italy.

The London claim centres on the licensing rights for OPL 245 block, for which the oil majors purchased extraction rights in 2011. It is alleged that most of the $1.1 billion was used for bribes and kickbacks to government officials.

Messrs Jonathan, Adoke, and other Nigerian officials named in the alleged “scheme” have all denied wrongdoing.

Last month, PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported how Nigeria tracked down and grounded the luxury private jet purchased by Mr Etete with some of the alleged proceeds of the Malabu deal.

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