- In 2016, an Italian prosecutor, Fabio de Pasquale, accused ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and nine others, inlcluding Shell, in a $800 million corrupt oil deal
- Questions are now being raised as to how a huge sum $800 million was transferred through a convicted criminal account without the authorities raising an eyebrow or stopping it
The city of London is under questioning as to how it allowed the sum of $800 million dollars bank transfer to a convicted criminal as the proceeds from one of the most corrupt deals in the history of the oil industry.
A joint investigation by the Observer and journalists from Finance Uncovered, a non-profit organisation based in London, has discovered that prosecutors in Milan believe two payments of $400m each were wired through JP Morgan in London as the spoils of a huge deal to develop a Nigerian oilfield involving Shell, its joint venture partner the Italian oil giant Eni, and the federal government under Goodluck administration, The Guardian reports.
According to Pasquale's report, more than half the money was converted into bags of bribe cash via bureau de change in Nigeria, while tens of millions was wired to buy a private jet and armoured cars in the US.
De Pasquale and his team have spent more than two years following the money trail surrounding the murky sale of Nigeria’s prized Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL 245), a huge block off the coast of west Africa estimated to contain 9.3bn barrels of crude: enough to power the continent for seven years.
Oil giants from the west, China and Russia have coveted its riches for years. But Shell and Eni eventually prevailed, paying $1.3bn to the Nigerian government to secure the field in 2011.
However, within days the bulk of the money was transferred through JP Morgan in London to a convicted Nigerian money launderer – a man with whom both Shell and Eni had been negotiating.
Barnaby Pace, a campaigner with the anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness, which has investigated this case for several years said: “The UK authorities have some serious explaining to do."
In 1998, Nigeria’s then oil minister, Dan Etete, had awarded the oil deal to a shady new company, Malabu Oil and Gas, in which, it later emerged, he held a significant stake.
But after a new president came to power, Malabu lost the licence and it was assigned to Shell. Later the position reversed and Shell began legal proceedings against the Nigerian government.
Etete was convicted in a Paris court in 2007 for his part in a separate money-laundering scandal. But this did not appear to deter Shell and Eni from continuing to court him at luxury hotels in Europe and Nigeria. After one lunch with Etete in 2009 to discuss his asking price for OPL 245, it is reported that Copleston copied Colegate on an email to say it had gone well, helped along by “lots of iced champagne”.
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In 2010, negotiations reportedly swung Shell’s way when Goodluck Jonathan, a close pal of Etete’s, became Nigeria’s president.
The following year, the $1.3bn deal was struck, with Malabu entitled to $1.1bn and the Nigerian government a $210m “signature fee”.
A fixer involved in the deal described this approach as putting a “protection” between the buyer and seller so that at no point would Shell or Eni make direct payments to Malabu or Etete, who was officially recognised as a criminal. But in May 2011, days after the Nigerian government received the money, its officials instructed JP Morgan to transfer the $1.1bn to an account in Switzerland.
This is the point where the London authorities should have raised concerned over such huge transferred but nobody did. Under money-laundering regulations, banks are required to raise Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) for highly unusual transactions, especially involving what are called “politically exposed persons” such as Etete.
Meanwhile, Goodluck Jonathan faults reports by the UK Guardian that his administration rejected the offer of British armed forces to help in rescuing the Chibok girls, who were abducted in April 2014.
Jonathan describes the report as lies by people playing politics with the issue of the abducted girls.