Lawyers representing the Nigerian Government have accused two former Attorney Generals of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke and Bayo Ojo, of working against the country and taking millions of dollars in bribes as part of a fraudulent scheme to monetise the corrupt award of the OPL 245 oil field to Malabu Oil & Gas in 1998.
The country said this in a fresh case instituted against U.S. bank, JP Morgan Chase for $1.7 billion before High Court of Justice Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Admiralty and Commercial Court, alleging gross negligence by the bank in its handling of accounts associated with the sale of OPL 245 to oil giants, Eni and Shell
Both companies were charged in Italy with international corruption but acquitted in March 2021 by the Court of First Instance in Milan.
The acquittal is currently being appealed, with the companies denying any wrongdoing. No allegations of corruption have been made against JP Morgan.
Setting out Nigeria’s case, Roger Masefield QC described the original award of the OPL 245 licence to Malabu (a company owned by Dan Etete, who was Minister of Petroleum at the time) as “fraudulent and corrupt”.
A subsequent settlement agreement (brokered by Bayo Ojo) under which the license was restored to Malabu after it had earlier been revoked was said by Nigeria to have been “procured by bribery”.
The 2011 Agreements under which the oil field was sold to Shell and Eni were also described as being “part of a corrupt scheme to defraud the FRN”. Nigeria accused Etete, Ojo and Adoke of having “personally benefitted from these transactions”.
Adoke is currently on trial for alleged corruption relating to the OPL 245 deal, while Ojo has not been charged with any offence relating to the deal.
The government claimed that Etete, Ojo and Adoke hugely benefitted from the deal with millions of dollars deposited into an account owned by Etete, which he used for his benefit and to pay $10 million to Ojo.
According to the Nigerian government, Adoke knew that Etete had corruptly obtained the OPL 245 licence in 1998 and should have treated Malabu’s supposed title to OPL 245 as unlawful and void but rather, he arranged a deal that rewarded Etete’s corruption and in return, he received substantial benefits.
The Nigerian government said: “Hundreds of millions of dollars flowed to accounts controlled by Etete, which he used for his benefit and to pay $10 million to Ojo. As for Adoke, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed from Malabu to shell companies owned by Adoke’s long-term associate, Abubakar Aliyu: including $157 million to an entity (A Group) ‘whose email address Adoke had used on several occasions to communicate with JPM earlier in 2011’.
“Furthermore, between October 2011 and November 2014, Adoke entered into a shady property deal with Abubakar Aliyu, from which both appear to have realised substantial profits, using cash that appears to have been derived from the sale of OPL 245.”
Adoke is said by Nigeria to have “played a pivotal role in brokering the OPL 245 deal, and then lied about it”.
The government stated that Ojo aided Etete and abetted the fraud on the FRN by causing the FRN to enter into the November 30, 2006, Settlement with Malabu, which purported to reallocate OPL 245 to it.
“As explained below, there was no legitimate reason for Ojo to do this, as the FRN had two bases to declare Malabu’s supposed title void and/or revoke it: (i) the original 1998 grant was corrupt; and (ii) Malabu had not paid the outstanding signature bonus due under the terms of the licence. Ojo only did so because he was promised (and received) a substantial bribe by Etete.
“Ojo caused the FRN to enter into this settlement: he signed the “Terms of Settlement” on behalf of the President and the FGN; he told the EFCC that he had “reviewed the whole matter” and had then personally “agreed to a settlement”; 157 and a letter from Malabu to Daukoru states that Ojo (alongside Daukoru) negotiated the settlement with Malabu,” the government told the London court.
Explaining how Ojo received $10million in 2011, the Nigerian government said pursuant to a “Legal Advisory Mandate”, ostensibly dated 1 December 2010, Bayo Ojo & Co would provide “legal advisory support” to Malabu, in exchange for which, in the event that Malabu received at least $1,092,040,000 for OPL 245, Bayo Ojo & Co would be paid $50m.
“On 19 April 2011, this was supplemented by a further agreement between Ojo and Petrol Services. This provided that Petrol Services was to retain a further $25 million: meaning it would retain a total of $30 million, and Bayo Ojo & Co would receive $20 million.
In the event, BSI rejected JPM’s attempt to pay Petrol Service, and JPM paid Malabu directly instead (as set out in more details below). Malabu (controlled by Etete) then transferred the money to Rocky Top (controlled by Etete), which paid $10 million to Ojo.
“After receiving $10 million from Malabu, Ojo made one significant payment. On 7 May 2012, he paid $1.2 million to Vincenzo Armanna, an ENI executive who worked closely on the OPL 245 transaction. The payment details given by Ojo were “Giuseppe Armanna Inheritance” –
Giuseppe Armanna being the name of Vincenzo Armanna’s late father,” the government added.
The Nigerian government further explained that Adoke played a pivotal role in brokering the OPL 245 deal, and then lied about it. It also said Adoke received cash and benefits in kind from a Group and Abubakar Aliyu, the man responsible for converting hundreds of millions of dollars of the proceeds from OPL 245 into cash, and then lied about that too.
“The obvious inference which the Court should draw is that Adoke was corrupted and that the payments to A Group and the Plot 3271 were the payoff (or part of the payoff) he received. There is further evidence which points in the same direction, in two respects.
“First, others who were involved in the transaction understood that former Nigerian officials, including Adoke, would be paid bribes by Malabu out of the proceeds.
“Consistently with that, in the course of an interview by the FBI on 21 May 2013, Agaev stated that Etete had said that he had to pay $400 million to Adoke, President Goodluck Jonathan and “all the other people in the Senate and National Assembly”.
“When questioned by the PPM about this during an interview on 30 March 2016, Agaev clarified that he had supposed, but did not know, that President Jonathan would get at least $200m of that, but confirmed that Etete had specifically mentioned that he was going to pay Adoke,” the Nigerian government said.