Nigeria: Malabu Scandal – Jonathan Must Have Gotten $200 Million, Middleman Tells FBI, Others
By Samuel Ogundipe
Former President Goodluck Jonathan probably received as much as $200 million to approve the controversial $1.3 billion sale of OPL 245 oil field, Italian prosecutors said in court documents.
The documents, which were extracts of a thorough investigation by Italian authorities into the deal, also confirmed that Shell and ENI knew a good chunk of the $1.3 billion will be disbursed as kickbacks to Nigerian politicians, yet went ahead with the deal.
The findings were obtained by BuzzFeed and Italian business newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore. BuzzFeed released its own version earlier today.
The prosecutors quoted Ednan Agaev, a Russian middleman who helped negotiate the transfer of the oil block to Shell and Eni, as saying that Dan Etete, the former Petroleum Minister at the heart of the oil scandal, said he intended to dole out as much as $400 million in bribes if the deal went through.
If Mr. Etete actually paid out such an amount in bribes to Nigerian officials, “Agaev stated that he would think President Goodluck Jonathan got at least $200 million of this money,” BuzzFeed quoted an excerpt of FBI submissions to Italian authorities as saying.
The revelations were made when the FBI interviewed Mr. Agaev, whom prosecutors also said met with Mr. Jonathan on more than one occasion in Nigeria during the OPL 245 negotiations.
Mr. Agaev, who was Mr. Etete’s representative in the negotiation, said the convicted former petroleum minister told him of the $400 million bribe to Nigerian politicians when he approached him for his payment.
When FBI detectives asked Mr. Agaev about payment of his commission, he “stated that he went to Etete and told him to pay him the $65,000,000 fee. Agaev stated that Etete said, ‘I can’t pay you, I have to pay Adoke [Mohammed Bello Adoke, then Nigeria’s attorney general] $400 million and all the other people in the Senate and the National assembly.”
The Russian also repeated the assertion in a follow-up interview with Italian prosecutors, led by Fabio De Pasquale in Milan.
“I said that if it’s true, that he paid, he had to pay 400 million, I assume that at least 200 went to Goodluck (Jonathan).”
“I heard from Chief (Etete), he claims that he had to pay 400 million, so, if this is true, if he paid 400 million, then most probably the President, as the biggest boss, took at least the half of it,” BuzzFeed wrote, quoting documents prepared by Italian prosecutors.
The findings, which included internal emails and phone conversations of Shell’s officials and agents, also revealed how Mr. Etete’s wife allegedly stated that her husband was getting only a part of the total sum paid by Shell.
“The rest goes in paying people off,” BuzzFeed reported.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr. Etete, who alongside Mr. Adoke has since been charged by the anti-graft EFCC for his role in the scandal, told a British Court that only $250 million of the $801 million he received from the Malabu payment was his. Others are believed to have been shared to politically exposed persons including Messrs. Adoke and Jonathan.
The findings reported on Sunday were the latest revelations about the controversial deal, which was struck in 2011. The $1.3 billion was paid by Shell and Eni into a Nigerian government account in London, with $1.1 billion transferred in addition to an earlier $201 million earlier paid by Shell to the Nigerian government. About $801 million of the money was then transferred from the Nigerian government account into Malabu accounts controlled by Mr. Etete.
JONATHAN, ADOKE MAINTAIN INNOCENCE
Despite the fact that their names have repeatedly featured in different investigations across many jurisdictions, Messrs. Jonathan and Adoke have maintained no wrongdoing.
Instead, they said they helped Nigeria wave huge losses that the country would have otherwise suffered had the deal not been signed at the time.
Mr. Jonathan’s spokesperson, Ikechukwu Eze, could not be reached for comments about the latest revelations Sunday morning. But he exonerated the former president in a January 10 statement about the Malabu oil deal.
“We wish to make it clear that former President Jonathan was not accused, indicted or charged for corruptly collecting any monies as kickbacks or bribes from ENI by the Italian authorities or any other law enforcement body the world over,” the statement said.
Mr. Adoke had repeatedly stated that he didn’t do anything wrong in allowing the Nigerian government to proceed with the questionable deal as the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Last month, Mr. Adoke accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of being used by political interests, after the anti-graft agency slammed charges of corruption and money laundering against him in connection with the OPL 245 scandal.
Mr. Adoke, who served as AGF from 2010 to 2015, said successive administrations from President Olusegun Obasanjo had signed on to the agreement and the Jonathan administration merely implemented it.
But Mr. Obasanjo had since distanced himself from the deal in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, warning Mr. Adoke to desist from dragging his name into the Malabu oil mess.
In yet another revelation, Mr. Etete, at a 2010 meeting with Guy Colegate and John Copleston, two former British intelligence officers hired by Shell to help handle Mr. Etete during the negotiations, said Mr. Jonathan had written to him about the president’s willingness to see the deal through.
“Etete claims he has and has shown (though not copied) a letter from President reiterating malabu’s 100pc equity/contract ‘award’,” an email from Mr. Colegate stated. “This letter clearly an attempt to deliver significant revenues to GLJ [Jonathan] as part of any transaction.”
Shell officials said Mr. Jonathan worked as a lesson teacher to Mr. Etete’s children when he was Petroleum Minister from mid to late 1990s.
MI6 officials said the deal was “about personal gain and politics” for Mr. Jonathan.
The documents also revealed that Shell officials knew Mr. Etete was an ex-convict who intended to distribute the payment of the Malabu oil deal to politicians, but transacted with him, anyway.
At some point, the officials tried to exploit Mr. Etete’s criminal record to get a better deal for Shell.
In response to a 2007 note saying that a French court had just sentenced Mr. Etete to a jail term and a $440,000 fine for money laundering, a Shell general counsel forwarded the message to executive board members:
“Gentlemen, I thought the attached would be of interest to you,” he wrote. “We are considering how to turn this development to our advantage.”
Guy Outen, an executive vice president at Shell, replied: “makes it a bit difficult for the Govt … and us … to progress though,” BuzzFeed reported.
The details confirm a REMIUM TIMES report, sourced from Italian journalists, that Shell and ENI knew they were dealing with Mr. Etete, and that a good chunk of their payment will go to Malabu Oil and Gas, partly-owned by the former petroleum minister.
NO BASIS FOR PROSECUTION — SHELL, ENI
In their response to BuzzFeed and Il Sore 24 Ore, Shell and ENI said the authorities have no grounds to pursue their prosecution.
“Based on our review of the Prosecutor of Milan’s file and all of the information and facts available to Shell, we do not believe that there is a basis to prosecute Shell.
“Furthermore, we are not aware of any evidence to support a case against any former or current Shell employee.
“If the evidence ultimately proves that improper payments were made by Malabu or others to then current government officials in exchange for improper conduct relating to the 2011 settlement of the long-standing legal disputes, it is Shell’s position that none of those payments were made with its knowledge, authorization or on its behalf,” Shell said.
In its response, ENI also struck a similarly defiant tone.
“Neither ENI nor Shell paid any monies other than as contemplated and recorded by the Block Resolution Agreement and did not pay to Malabu, to Chief Dan Etete or to any public officer. ENI is not involved in any investigation in The Netherlands …
Former Minister Dan Etete, the man behind Malabu
“The payments made by ENI and Shell to the Nigerian government for title to OPL 245 were made to an escrow account with an international bank held by the Federal Government of Nigeria pursuant to the Block 245 Resolution Agreement.
“Neither ENI nor Shell paid any monies other than as contemplated and recorded by the Block Resolution Agreement and did not pay to Malabu, to Chief Dan Etete or to any public officer,” it said.
But Italian prosecutors said late last year they had enough grounds to charge Shell, Agip-Eni, and their executives alongside other Nigerians involved in the controversial deal for fraud in Milan.
Summary of Malabu’s history
Late last year, they filed charges against Mr. Etete, Mr. Agaev and the following individuals: DescaJzi Claudio, the CEO of Eni; his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni; Roberto Casula, Armanna Vincenzo, Antonio Pagano, Luigi Bisignani and Falcioni Gianfranco.
BuzzFeed quoted Mr. De Pasquale as stating in court filings that it was reasonable to describe the Malabu oil deal as “anomalous or suspicious” as it “reasonably appear to be connected to contexts of bribery”.
A Milan court will decide if the matter will go on trial later this month, PREMIUM TIMES understand.
In separate charges filed late 2016, the EFCC accused Mr. Adoke and Mr. Etete of defrauding Nigeria in the OPL 245 deal.
The Department of Petroleum Resources said last December that Mr. Adoke and other officials of the Jonathan administration who participated in the concession of the lucrative oil field to Shell and Agip-Eni did not follow due process.
The Nigerian parliament is also conducting a new round of inquiry into the controversies surrounding the OPL 245 since its lease was first awarded in 1998.
Mr. Adoke had maintained his innocence and pledged to make himself available for trial, although the EFCC seeks to declare him wanted should he fail to make himself available for trial.