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OPL 245: Dan Etete says he has no case to answer in Nigeria after Italian court verdict

OPL 245: Dan Etete says he has no case to answer in Nigeria after Italian court verdict

22 March 2021

Dan Etete, former minister of petroleum, says Nigerian courts must now strike out charges against him after an Italian court ruled that there was no corruption involved in the OPL 245 transaction.

He also said Malabu Oil and Gas lost over $10 billion to the corruption allegations tied to the oil block.

The OPL 245 deal involved the $1.3 billion purchase of an oil bloc by Royal Dutch Shell and Eni from Malabu, a company in which Etete held majority shares.

Of the sum, $210 million went into government coffers as “signature bonus” and the rest was paid to Malabu Oil and Gas, the original owners of the block.

Etete, through Anthony Secci, his lawyer, had argued that the deal was legally “perfect” and corruption-free.

However, prosecutors alleged that $1.1 billion went to politicians and intermediaries, with 50 percent of it going to Etete personally.

On March 17, an Italian court acquitted Shell, Eni and other defendants of corruption charges in the OPL 245 deal.

Reacting in an unsigned statement but which TheCable confirmed was authorised by him, Etete described the judgement as satisfactory.

He said the ruling has “rightly acquitted” him of corruption and corrupt behaviour following “a brutal and diligent 36 months trial”.

Etete, now 76, said the federal government must live with the court decision as it was actively involved in choosing the Milan court to settle the dispute.

While there are indications that Nigeria may appeal the judgment, Etete is still being tried in absentia by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“The Court has confirmed that no bribes were paid to anyone and that there is no case to answer on the issue,” the statement read.

“The acquittal in Milan is therefore determinative in all jurisdictions, including Nigeria.

“Any and every Order made against Chief Dan Etete in any Nigerian Court or directly or indirectly in any other court on alleged corruption on OPL 245 are hereinafter entirely invalid and will be struck out.”

Etete said his reputation dropped over allegations of corruption levelled against him, adding that Malubu also lost over $10 billion.

The former minister commended those who stood by him during the corruption trial.

‘MALABU WAS DECIMATED’

“The Chief was proven to have been wrongly labelled, a pariah with whom no large corporation would or could do business. Malabu Oil & Gas was similarly decimated,” the statement said.

“Those losses exceed 10 billion US dollars which are entirely and properly recoverable against FGN. The legal tests of remoteness and measure of damages are conclusively and legally satisfied.

“In essence, the valid and constantly unrevoked Settlement Agreements with Shell ENI FGN and Malabu relieved FGN of a multi-billion dollar claim by Shell in the Settlements process Arbitration begun in Washington by Eni on OPL 245.

“Importantly, that Arbitration stimulated a settlement, with duress, whereby Malabu was forced to accept 1.2 US billion dollars for a concession with a proper market value of at least 8-9 billion US dollars.

“Malabu was therefore deprived of approximately 8-9 billion US dollars in value on sale at the time, but over 15 billion US dollars if allowed to develop the Oil block as contractually agreed and upon which Malabu paid a signature bonus of 210 million US dollars to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

WHAT IS OPL 245 CONTROVERSY?

On April 9, 1998, the federal military government awarded OPL 245 to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, which was said to be owned mainly by Mohammed Abacha, son of Sani Abacha, and Etete, who was the petroleum minister at the time.

On July 2, 2001, President Olusegun Obasanjo revoked Malabu’s licence and assigned the oil block to Shell — without a public bid. Malabu went to court, but ownership was reverted to it in 2006 after it reached an out-of-court settlement with the federal government.

Shell fought back and commenced arbitration against Nigeria, but when President Goodluck Jonathan came to power in 2010, the controversy appeared to have been resolved with Shell and Eni agreeing to buy the oil block from Malabu for $1.1 billion.

Thereafter, it emerged that the shareholders of Malabu originally used pseudonyms, in addition to moral questions as to Etete presiding over the allocation of an oil block to a company in which he had interest.

Mohammed Abacha also alleged that his name was illegally removed from the company registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

In 2007, Etete was convicted for money laundering in a different matter in France, although it was later reversed by the French government in 2014.

But these issues have been hanging over the OPL 245 settlement agreement since 2011.

SOURCE

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