It’s been called one of the biggest corruption cases in corporate history which has escaped the attention of much of the media and few have even heard about it.
In the drama, playing out in an Italian court, two middlemen have been convicted for their role in the scheme involving one of Africa’s most promising oil fields and its sale – allegedly engineered by oil giants Italian-owned Eni and Royal Dutch Shell – that deprived the people of Nigeria of an estimated $6 billion in future revenues.
The deal making began when Dan Etete, an ex-oil minister, awarded Malabu, a company he controlled with the son of ex-president Sani Abacha, the license to a major oil field (OPL 245) for $20 million. Royal Dutch Shell and Eni were contacted to buy the field and the sale went through for $1.1 billion with the money winding up in the account of Malabu – not in the government’s account which should have controlled the field for the Nigerian people.
“Shell executives knew the deal they were asking for was not a ‘production sharing contract’, which would have given the Nigerian Government a share of the oil from their OPL 245 block,” charged the rights group Global Witness. “But Shell and Eni continued to call it that – despite having removed the Nigerian Government’s share of oil entirely.”
Nigeria’s civil servants called the deal “highly prejudicial to the interests of the Federal Government” but Nigerian ministers appear to have ignored or overruled their concerns.
JP Morgan Chase, which ran the $1.1 billion escrow account, ultimately released the money to Etete – a convicted money launderer – with the consent of the UK’s anti-money laundering enforcement agency, causing a huge scandal in the UK.
“This amount of money would be enough to educate six million teachers in Nigeria,” said Global Witness activist Ava Lee. “It really can’t be underestimated just how big a deal this could be for a country that right now has the highest rates of extreme poverty in the world.”
Ex-Minister Etete’s purchases with the illicit funds included a speed boat, a chateau, a private jet and armored Cadillacs in the US, fine art and luxury shotguns in London.
If the two oil giants are found guilty of knowingly paying off the ex-minister, they could potentially be forced to pay huge damages in the case.
Both Eni and Shell deny the charges.
Source via Global Information Network