Again, Nigeria Lost $1.7Bn Over OPL 245, AS British Court Thwarted Case Against Bank


Again, Nigeria has lost its $1.7 billion claim against JP Morgan Chase Bank over the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 in 2011.

In the judgement delivered on Tuesday, the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court said there was no proof that Nigeria was defrauded in the deal.

The Nigerian government had sued JP Morgan on the ground of “Quincecare duty”, alleging that the bank “ought to have known” that there was corruption and fraud in the transaction which saw Malabu sell its 100 per cent in OPL 245 to Shell and Eni for $1.1 billion.

Nigeria argued that there were enough “red flags” for JP Morgan to have halted the transfers.

However, the bank rejected Nigeria’s claims, maintaining that all due processes were followed and money laundering checks were done, arguing that allegations of fraud only came up after a new government took over in Nigeria.

In the judgement, Sara Cockerill ruled that the Nigerian government could not prove that it been defrauded, saying it may be that with the benefit of hindsight, “JPMorgan would have done things differently” but declared that “none of these things individually or collectively amount to triggering and then breaching” the bank’s duty of care to its client.

Earlier,  on March 17, 2021,an Italian court had provided detailed reason for its judgement with which it acquitted two oil majors; Royal Dutch Shell and Eni,  on the Malabu Oil massive corruption case.

The case involving $1.3 billion oil block sale was the biggest corruption scandal to hit the industry.

Judge Marco Tremolada of the Italian Court read out the sentence in the Milan court stating that the companies and 13 defendants charged in the case had been acquitted as there was no case to answer.

Among those charged in the case were current Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and his predecessor Paolo Scaroni.
Prosecutors called for the managers to be jailed and the companies to be fined, as well as confiscating $1.1 billion from the defendants.

The ruling comes three years after the trial kicked off and after over 74 hearings.

The Nigerian Government , then , had stated  that ruling could still be appealed  after it would have reviewed  the verdict and then consider whether to appeal, expressed its disappointment in a statement released shortly after the Italian court’s decision was announced.

“The Federal Republic of Nigeria is disappointed in today’s ruling in Milan, but thanks the Italian prosecuting authorities for their tireless efforts,” a government spokesman said.

The statement added that Nigeria “will continue to hold those responsible for the OPL 245 fraud accountable.”

The government said it would review the verdict and then consider whether to appeal.

Shell ordered to pay for Niger Delta oil spills

The case concerned the 2011 purchase of the OPL 245 offshore oilfield in Nigeria.

Shell and Eni paid $1.3 billion (€1.09 billion) to buy the massive oilfield from Malabu Oil and Gas — a firm that was owned by former Nigerian Oil Minister, Dan Etete.

Italian prosecutors argued that $1.1 billion of the purchase price were bribes that landed in the pockets of middlemen and politicians, including former oil minister Etete.

Prosecutors also argued that Shell and Eni knew that most of the money was being used towards bribes.

Both firms have denied the charges.

The case landed in court after three anti-corruption NGOs brought a complaint before prosecutors in Milan.

Shell reacts

Both firms welcomed the ruling, with Shell saying that it has always maintained that the oilfield purchase was legal.

“At the same time, this has been a difficult learning experience for us. Shell is a company that operates with integrity and we work hard every day to ensure our actions not only follow the letter and spirit of the law, but also live up to society’s wider expectations of us,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell said in a statement.

Eni welcomes Judgement

In a similar development, Eni also said in a separate statement sent to New Telegraph that it welcomed the judgement.

“Eni welcome today’s judgment of full acquittal of all charges, since there was no case, by the Court of Milan. After almost three years of trial, the judgment by the Court has finally established that the company, the CEO Claudio Descalzi and the management involved in the proceedings have all behaved in a lawful and correct manner.

“Eni has throughout maintained its full confidence in the Court’s fair and balanced investigation.

“Today, Eni expresses its gratitude for the trust placed by its stakeholders throughout the course of the trial, particularly in upholding the company’s management and the conduct of its business, and respecting its reputation.”

Olusola Bello



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