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EXCLUSIVE| President Buhari Reopens Controversial OPL 245 / $1.1 Billion Malabu Oil Deal

by on December 3, 2015
 

Preliminary Investigations by BREAKINGTIMES indicates that the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration has reopened the controversial $1.1 Billion Malabu Oil Deal also known as Oil Prospecting Licence 245.

Our source reports that President Muhammadu Buhari has sent investigators after the beneficiaries of the US$1.1 billion transferred to Dan Etete and his business associates under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 is a massive (1,958 square kilometre) and potentially highly lucrative oil block in Nigeria. It encompasses two deep-water fields, Zabazaba and Etan, at depths of between 1,500 and 2,000 metres respectively in the offshore waters in the Gulf of Guinea.

The field is estimated to hold up to 9.23 billion barrels of crude oil, equivalent to nearly one quarter of Nigeria’s total proven reserves, according to industry figures. Proceeds from the oil well is said to be capable of servicing the country’s debt for the next 30 years.

Police in the UK and magistrates in Italy formally investigated the OPL 245 sale, following allegations of bribery and round tripping of sale proceeds that has trailed the deal. London-based anti-corruption campaign group. There has been an ongoing international campaign to expose the illegal dealings surrounding the OPL 245 and to subsequently bring parties connected to the contentious sale and bribes to book.

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During the regime of late military dictator, Sani Abacha, the OPL 245 concession was originally awarded in 1998 by the then Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete, to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company that he set up and owns . In effect, Etete awarded one of Nigeria’s most lucrative oil blocks to himself.

The deal effectively converted into money, an asset that had been acquired by Malabu Oil and Gas in highly suspicious, possibly illegal, circumstances.

In 2011, Shell and ENI paid $1.1 billion, plus a signature bonus of $210 million, to the Nigerian government for the concession. In a back-to-back deal negotiated by the country’s attorney-general of the federation and minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), the Nigerian government then undertook to transfer $1.1 billion to Etete’s company, Malabu.

Shell and ENI deny paying any money to Malabu Oil and Gas but they were aware and in agreement that the deal was for the benefit of Malabu.

Etete, who was convicted for money laundering in France, claimed in a British court in 2013 that people close to former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, demanded a slice of the oil block as bribe.

October 29, 2014, a high court in the United Kingdom lifted a secrecy order imposed on a 2013 legal challenge by a UK-based, environmental and social justice, not-for-profit organisation, The Corner House, of a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to freeze some $215 million in alleged proceeds of crime from the OPL 245 sale.

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In 2011, a middleman acting for Malabu sued the company in the United Kingdom commercial court for fees he claimed he was owed for services rendered to Malabu in the sale of OPL 245. Pending the outcome of the case, the court froze some $215 million from the proceeds of the oil concession sale.

The Corner House, together with anti-corruption watchdog, Global Witness and Re:Common, an Italian Non Government Organisation, and Dotun Oloko, a Nigerian anti-corruption campaigner, wrote to this court raising concerns that the frozen funds were proceeds of crime. The group also requested the London Metropolitan Police’s Proceeds of Corruption Unit (POCU) and the Italian authorities to investigate.

Although the police sought action under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) declined to initiate proceedings. The Corner House therefore sought a judicial review of the CPS’s decision, arguing that the OPL 245 deal was corrupt and illegal under both Nigerian and UK law and that it was likely, on the available evidence, that a substantial part of the monies paid to Malabu had been used to pay bribes and the CPS’s failure to act was unlawful.

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The application for permission to bring a judicial review of the CPS failure to act was held in secret, at the request of the CPS, because of the danger of “tipping off” those being investigated by the police.

In March 2014, the high court refused permission to bring a judicial review because the CPS had assured the court that it was still considering taking action. In July 2014, however, following the commercial court ruling in favour of the middleman, more than $110 million of the suspect funds left the UK for Switzerland.

The CPS did nothing to prevent the movement of this money. By contrast, at the request of the Italian authorities, the funds were frozen in Switzerland. Only following a mutual legal assistance request from Italy did the UK authorities freeze a further $80 million of the funds remaining in the UK.

Omolara Adegoke- Abuja

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