$1billion Malabu Fraud: Nigerian Government Submits Fresh Evidence Indicting Ex-Attorney General Adoke, Other Accomplices

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The Nigerian government has made fresh submissions before the London Commercial Court, where Nigeria is suing JP Morgan Chase Bank and established that former Attorney-General, Mohammed Bello Adoke, was complicit in the controversial sale of the OPL 245 oil bloc licence to Shell and Eni, despite the firm having no formal connection to the deal.

The new submissions were made before the High Court of Justice of England and Wales.

It was between the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Claimant and JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A. as the defendant before Justice Mrs Justice Cockerill.

The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.

From accounts controlled by Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu Abubakar, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil.

Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well as officials of Shell and ENI.

The transaction was authorised in 2011 by ex-president Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocs.

The oil resources of the OPL 245 license have remained undeveloped since the controversies began.

One of those being prosecuted by the Nigerian government is Adoke.

He is facing trial over the alleged role he played in the “fraudulent” transfer of ownership of an oil bloc, OPL 245, regarded as one of the biggest in Africa.

Other defendants include Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie and four companies- Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.

According to court documents obtained by SaharaReporters on Sunday, the court said the claims of the Nigerian government should be allowed based on the new submissions and fresh evidence presented before it.

“For all of the above reasons, the FRN’s claims should be allowed. JPM breached its Quincecare Duty in making the 2011 Payments and the 2013 Payments. It was

grossly negligent in doing so. The quantum of the FRN’s loss is simply the sum of money that was paid away by those payments being $875,740,000.03, and the FRN is entitled to and claims that sum in damages. The FRN will make submissions as to interest and any other consequential matters in light of the court’s judgment,” the court said.

The court document further said, “These are the written closing submissions of the FRN. This document supplements, rather than replaces the FRN’s written opening (“FRN Opening”)1 and oral opening, and should be read alongside them. The FRN maintains its submissions in the opening.

“Extracts from FRN Closing Statement, FRN vs JP Morgan Chase; C4. The 2011 Resolution Agreements and Payments: Adoke’s corruption; 114. The evidence of Mr Adoke’s corruption is set out in detail in the FRN’s written opening. In brief summary, the points are 114.1. Mr Adoke accepted in The Burden of Service, that Abubakar Aliyu was a long-standing friend of his. Moreover, one of Aliyu Abubakar’s companies – A Group Properties – received $157 million out of the total $400 million that was paid to Malabu’s First Bank account – and notably, Mr Adoke used the A Group Properties email address during the 2011 transaction – sending the Resolution Agreements to JPM from this email address, at a time when he was out of office; and on another occasion, copying A Group Properties in on another email. This strongly suggests that there was a connection between not just Mr Adoke and Abubakar Aliyu, but between Mr Adoke and A Group Properties: and that Mr Adoke was intended to be the recipient of all or a substantial part of the $157 million that was paid to A Group Properties.

“114.2. The purchase and sale of Plot 3271 represent a further corrupt benefit to Mr Adoke. Abubakar Aliyu sold the Plot to Mr Adoke at a loss just weeks after acquiring it; Mr Adoke funded the purchase via a bank loan, which ran up extraordinary interest (far in excess of his Ministerial salary) until it was paid off, in 2013. The manner in which the loan was paid off was extraordinary: it was done by Mr Adoke, personally handing a bag containing over $2 million in cash to bank and bureau de change employees. The plot then apparently reverted to Abubakar Aliyu and was sold for around eight times the price Mr Adoke had paid for it, at a profit of around $20 million.

 

“114.3. Mr Adoke was (as he admits in his autobiography The Burden of Service) fully aware of Etete’s interest in Malabu, along with Mohammed Abacha’s, and the corrupt self-grant in 1998. There was no bona fide reason for him to agree to a deal that would pay Etete over $1 billion for an asset he had stolen, when he could instead have had Malabu’s title declared void and/or revoked it for non-payment of the signature bonus.

“114.4. Mr Adoke demonstrably lied in The Burden of Service: he said that he only became aware of EVP’s role in the transaction in August 2011 (when in fact he had personally sought to broker a deal over EVP’s fees in December 2010), and that he only became aware of Mohammed Abacha’s claim in May 2011 (when in fact he had proposed the solution to this issue in December 2010, thereby defying the stated wishes of the Nigerian Court). It also does not acknowledge (let alone attempt to explain) the fact that Mr Adoke handed over a bag containing over $2 million in cash to bank and bureau de change employees – instead falsely asserting that the loan was paid off by Abubakar Aliyu without Mr Adoke having any involvement or any knowledge of how this was done.

 

“114.5. Mr Adoke gave a remarkable interview to an Italian journalist, Carla Maria Rumor, in which he said that the money paid out of the Depository Account by JPM went to “some other officials here in Nigeria, not only to Etete”, and appeared to offer some of that money to the journalist.

“114.6. Mr Adoke previously asserted that his 21 June email to Mr Osolake (from the email address ‘[email protected]’), and the interview with Ms Rumor, were forgeries. He has since asserted that he did not telephone Mr Osolake on 20 June. That is demonstrably a lie and is contrary to both Mr Osolake’s contemporaneous email and his evidence in these proceedings.

“115. JPM had little to say about many of these points. Indeed in relation to the obvious falsehoods in The Burden of Service, Ms Phelps QC said “I’m not going to say anything about the autobiography”.

 

“116. There are four points that arise in light of the openings and events since then. 117. First, Mr Adoke’s baseless allegations about the veracity of the A Group Properties email, and the interview with Ms Rumor, have been repeated, and have had consequences which have taken some time to unwind. As noted at FRN Opening §159,248 a 5 February 2021 letter from Mr Adoke’s solicitors to the Inspector General of Police alleged that those documents were forged. The reasons given do not stand up to scrutiny and are inconsistent with JPM’s own evidence in this case. In addition to the inconsistency of Mr Adoke’s account with the 20 June 2011 telephone call to Mr Osolake (noted at §114.6 above) there are three further points:

“117.1. In relation to the A Group Properties email, what Mr Adoke cannot explain (and does not attempt to) is how the author of the email would have been able to attach copies of the Resolution Agreements, if the author was a forger rather than Mr Adoke himself. No motive has been identified for the forgery, nor has any culprit.

 

“117.2. As to the interview with Ms Rumor, the Court should note that Ms Rumor wrote to the Italian prosecutor (on RAI letterhead) confirming that the interview did take place, on 5 November 2015.249 Fabricating such an interview would also be a time-consuming endeavour. Again the culprits have not been identified, and nor has any motivation for their going to this trouble.

 

“117.3. Further as to that interview, in oral opening JPM’s counsel suggested that the Italian Court had rejected the interview as inadmissible. While that was stated in the original set of charges which Mr Adoke caused to be laid against Mr Suraju (as to which see below), it does not appear to be correct. The FRN is not aware of any ruling to that effect in the Italian proceedings. Although the judgment of the Milan Court acquitting the Shell and Eni defendants does not refer to the interview, it is referred to in the judgment of Judge Barbara in the fast-track proceedings against Messrs Obi and Di Nardo.

 

“118. Unfortunately, Mr Adoke’s letter led to the prosecution of a Mr Suraju, of an NGO called Human and Environmental Development Agenda (“HEDA”). The charges were in essence that Mr Suraju had circulated the A Group Properties email and the Carla Maria Rumor interview while knowing them to be false. It appears that the police and prosecutors were not aware of the evidence in the present proceedings that discredits Mr Adoke’s complaint and shows these to be true documents.

 

“119. The charges against Mr Suraju in respect of the A Group Properties email were withdrawn at a hearing on 18 February 2022.253 While the charges concerning the Carla Maria Rumor interview were not withdrawn at that hearing, it is understood that they will also be withdrawn. The complaint by Mr Adoke that led to this prosecution is, the FRN submits, a colourable device on the part of Mr Adoke, to attempt to distance himself from documents that he rightly recognises are damning (particularly in circumstances where he is subject to ongoing prosecutions).”

Furthermore, the court documents stated that Adoke had now repeated the same false points in a letter to the Court – again denying telephoning Osolake on 20 June 2011, “when it is clear from the contemporaneous documents and Mr Osolake’s evidence that the telephone call did indeed take place – is perhaps the final nail in the coffin of his credibility: it is a desperate manoeuvre and a brazen lie told to this Court.”

The document states further, “121. Second, in relation to the Plot 3271 transaction, one of the FRN’s points in opening was that the size of the Plot and the buildings on it were far in excess of anything Mr Adoke could have needed. That sits ill with his account, in The Burden of Service, that he had acquired it to live in on the advice of his security detail. In oral opening the FRN took the Court a document, {C3/124}, which shows just how extravagant Plot 3271 actually was. The document relates to Plot 3271B only – i.e. only one of the two sub-plots into which Plot 3271 was subdivided before it was sold to the Central Bank of Nigeria (at a vast profit). Mr Adoke, of course, had the whole plot. As the document shows, Plot 3271B (alone) contained, among other things: a house containing five en-suite bedrooms; a further three-bedroom guest chalet, and still further two rooms of “Boys Quarters”; its own water treatment plant and generator; parking for 20 cars; and an “Olympic size swimming pool”.

“122. Third, JPM makes an odd point about the many Shell internal documents cited at FRN Opening §163, which set out Shell’s understanding that at least part of the money to be paid to Malabu would be used to pay bribes to then-current Nigerian officials. The point JPM makes is that most of these documents do not refer specifically to the payment of bribes to Mr Adoke individually, but are “simply generic”. It is hard to see how this assists JPM. The fact that Shell, who were very closely involved in the transaction, understood that bribes would be paid to Nigerian officials, clearly supports the FRN’s case that the Resolution Agreements are illegitimate and corrupt. It directly supports the case on fraud. It indirectly supports the case that Mr Adoke received bribes because he is (i) a Nigerian official; and (ii) the official most closely involved in the Resolution Agreements.”

 

“361. As noted above, Mr Adoke has claimed that he did not speak to Mr Osolake on 20 June, or send the email from the A Group Properties address on 21 June, and would not have done so because he was on holiday and was not in Ministerial office. This is relevant because it goes to Mr Adoke’s character in circumstances in which the Court is being asked to find that he participated in a fraud.

“362. Mr Adoke is lying. His claim is contradicted by Mr Osolake’s evidence and the emails Mr Osolake received. Mr Osolake was asked to confirm whether he accepted, as inevitably followed from his own evidence, that Mr Adoke was lying. Tellingly, as the transcript shows, Mr Osolake was reluctant to agree that Mr Adoke had lied, for fear of reprisals in Nigeria, not withstanding that Mr Adoke left office in 2015. Once Mr Osolake had suggested there could be repercussions for him, the point was not pressed further, and Mr Osolake is not to be faulted for his reluctance to answer the question. However, the exchange spoke volumes as to Mr Osolake’s assessment of Mr Adoke’s character and the influence the former Attorney General still wields.”

 

———- Forwarded message ———

From: Sahara General Mail <[email protected]>

Date: Sun, Apr 10, 2022, 12:56

Subject: Story for publication: From Gbenro

To: Sahara Reporters <[email protected]>, Sowore <[email protected]>, La Keisha Nicole Landrum <[email protected]>, La Keisha Nicole Landrum <[email protected]>

$1billion Malabu Fraud: Nigerian Government Submits Fresh Evidence Indicting Ex-Attorney General Adoke, Other Accomplices

 

The Nigerian government has made fresh submissions before the London Commercial Court, where Nigeria is suing JP Morgan Chase Bank and established that former Attorney-General, Mohammed Bello Adoke, was complicit in the controversial sale of the OPL 245 oil bloc licence to Shell and Eni, despite the firm having no formal connection to the deal.

The new submissions were made before the High Court of Justice of England and Wales.

It was between the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Claimant and JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A. as the defendant before Justice Mrs Justice Cockerill.

The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.

 

From accounts controlled by Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu Abubakar, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil.

Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well as officials of Shell and ENI.

The transaction was authorised in 2011 by ex-president Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocs.

The oil resources of the OPL 245 license have remained undeveloped since the controversies began.

One of those being prosecuted by the Nigerian government is Adoke.

He is facing trial over the alleged role he played in the “fraudulent” transfer of ownership of an oil bloc, OPL 245, regarded as one of the biggest in Africa.

Other defendants include Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie and four companies- Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.

According to court documents obtained by SaharaReporters on Sunday, the court said the claims of the Nigerian government should be allowed based on the new submissions and fresh evidence presented before it.

“For all of the above reasons, the FRN’s claims should be allowed. JPM breached its Quincecare Duty in making the 2011 Payments and the 2013 Payments. It was

grossly negligent in doing so. The quantum of the FRN’s loss is simply the sum of money that was paid away by those payments being $875,740,000.03, and the FRN is entitled to and claims that sum in damages. The FRN will make submissions as to interest and any other consequential matters in light of the court’s judgment,” the court said.

The court document further said, “These are the written closing submissions of the FRN. This document supplements, rather than replaces the FRN’s written opening (“FRN Opening”)1 and oral opening, and should be read alongside them. The FRN maintains its submissions in the opening.

“Extracts from FRN Closing Statement, FRN vs JP Morgan Chase; C4. The 2011 Resolution Agreements and Payments: Adoke’s corruption; 114. The evidence of Mr Adoke’s corruption is set out in detail in the FRN’s written opening. In brief summary, the points are 114.1. Mr Adoke accepted in The Burden of Service, that Abubakar Aliyu was a long-standing friend of his. Moreover, one of Aliyu Abubakar’s companies – A Group Properties – received $157 million out of the total $400 million that was paid to Malabu’s First Bank account – and notably, Mr Adoke used the A Group Properties email address during the 2011 transaction – sending the Resolution Agreements to JPM from this email address, at a time when he was out of office; and on another occasion, copying A Group Properties in on another email. This strongly suggests that there was a connection between not just Mr Adoke and Abubakar Aliyu, but between Mr Adoke and A Group Properties: and that Mr Adoke was intended to be the recipient of all or a substantial part of the $157 million that was paid to A Group Properties.

“114.2. The purchase and sale of Plot 3271 represent a further corrupt benefit to Mr Adoke. Abubakar Aliyu sold the Plot to Mr Adoke at a loss just weeks after acquiring it; Mr Adoke funded the purchase via a bank loan, which ran up extraordinary interest (far in excess of his Ministerial salary) until it was paid off, in 2013. The manner in which the loan was paid off was extraordinary: it was done by Mr Adoke, personally handing a bag containing over $2 million in cash to bank and bureau de change employees. The plot then apparently reverted to Abubakar Aliyu and was sold for around eight times the price Mr Adoke had paid for it, at a profit of around $20 million.

“114.3. Mr Adoke was (as he admits in his autobiography The Burden of Service) fully aware of Etete’s interest in Malabu, along with Mohammed Abacha’s, and the corrupt self-grant in 1998. There was no bona fide reason for him to agree to a deal that would pay Etete over $1 billion for an asset he had stolen, when he could instead have had Malabu’s title declared void and/or revoked it for non-payment of the signature bonus.

“114.4. Mr Adoke demonstrably lied in The Burden of Service: he said that he only became aware of EVP’s role in the transaction in August 2011 (when in fact he had personally sought to broker a deal over EVP’s fees in December 2010), and that he only became aware of Mohammed Abacha’s claim in May 2011 (when in fact he had proposed the solution to this issue in December 2010, thereby defying the stated wishes of the Nigerian Court). It also does not acknowledge (let alone attempt to explain) the fact that Mr Adoke handed over a bag containing over $2 million in cash to bank and bureau de change employees – instead falsely asserting that the loan was paid off by Abubakar Aliyu without Mr Adoke having any involvement or any knowledge of how this was done.

 

“114.5. Mr Adoke gave a remarkable interview to an Italian journalist, Carla Maria Rumor, in which he said that the money paid out of the Depository Account by JPM went to “some other officials here in Nigeria, not only to Etete”, and appeared to offer some of that money to the journalist.

 

“114.6. Mr Adoke previously asserted that his 21 June email to Mr Osolake (from the email address ‘[email protected]’), and the interview with Ms Rumor, were forgeries. He has since asserted that he did not telephone Mr Osolake on 20 June. That is demonstrably a lie and is contrary to both Mr Osolake’s contemporaneous email and his evidence in these proceedings.

 

“115. JPM had little to say about many of these points. Indeed in relation to the obvious falsehoods in The Burden of Service, Ms Phelps QC said “I’m not going to say anything about the autobiography”.

 

“116. There are four points that arise in light of the openings and events since then. 117. First, Mr Adoke’s baseless allegations about the veracity of the A Group Properties email, and the interview with Ms Rumor, have been repeated, and have had consequences which have taken some time to unwind. As noted at FRN Opening §159,248 a 5 February 2021 letter from Mr Adoke’s solicitors to the Inspector General of Police alleged that those documents were forged. The reasons given do not stand up to scrutiny and are inconsistent with JPM’s own evidence in this case. In addition to the inconsistency of Mr Adoke’s account with the 20 June 2011 telephone call to Mr Osolake (noted at §114.6 above) there are three further points:

 

“117.1. In relation to the A Group Properties email, what Mr Adoke cannot explain (and does not attempt to) is how the author of the email would have been able to attach copies of the Resolution Agreements, if the author was a forger rather than Mr Adoke himself. No motive has been identified for the forgery, nor has any culprit.

 

“117.2. As to the interview with Ms Rumor, the Court should note that Ms Rumor wrote to the Italian prosecutor (on RAI letterhead) confirming that the interview did take place, on 5 November 2015.249 Fabricating such an interview would also be a time-consuming endeavour. Again the culprits have not been identified, and nor has any motivation for their going to this trouble.

 

“117.3. Further as to that interview, in oral opening JPM’s counsel suggested that the Italian Court had rejected the interview as inadmissible. While that was stated in the original set of charges which Mr Adoke caused to be laid against Mr Suraju (as to which see below), it does not appear to be correct. The FRN is not aware of any ruling to that effect in the Italian proceedings. Although the judgment of the Milan Court acquitting the Shell and Eni defendants does not refer to the interview, it is referred to in the judgment of Judge Barbara in the fast-track proceedings against Messrs Obi and Di Nardo.

 

“118. Unfortunately, Mr Adoke’s letter led to the prosecution of a Mr Suraju, of an NGO called Human and Environmental Development Agenda (“HEDA”). The charges were in essence that Mr Suraju had circulated the A Group Properties email and the Carla Maria Rumor interview while knowing them to be false. It appears that the police and prosecutors were not aware of the evidence in the present proceedings that discredits Mr Adoke’s complaint and shows these to be true documents.

 

“119. The charges against Mr Suraju in respect of the A Group Properties email were withdrawn at a hearing on 18 February 2022.253 While the charges concerning the Carla Maria Rumor interview were not withdrawn at that hearing, it is understood that they will also be withdrawn. The complaint by Mr Adoke that led to this prosecution is, the FRN submits, a colourable device on the part of Mr Adoke, to attempt to distance himself from documents that he rightly recognises are damning (particularly in circumstances where he is subject to ongoing prosecutions).”

 

Furthermore, the court documents stated that Adoke had now repeated the same false points in a letter to the Court – again denying telephoning Osolake on 20 June 2011, “when it is clear from the contemporaneous documents and Mr Osolake’s evidence that the telephone call did indeed take place – is perhaps the final nail in the coffin of his credibility: it is a desperate manoeuvre and a brazen lie told to this Court.”

 

The document states further, “121. Second, in relation to the Plot 3271 transaction, one of the FRN’s points in opening was that the size of the Plot and the buildings on it were far in excess of anything Mr Adoke could have needed. That sits ill with his account, in The Burden of Service, that he had acquired it to live in on the advice of his security detail. In oral opening the FRN took the Court a document, {C3/124}, which shows just how extravagant Plot 3271 actually was. The document relates to Plot 3271B only – i.e. only one of the two sub-plots into which Plot 3271 was subdivided before it was sold to the Central Bank of Nigeria (at a vast profit). Mr Adoke, of course, had the whole plot. As the document shows, Plot 3271B (alone) contained, among other things: a house containing five en-suite bedrooms; a further three-bedroom guest chalet, and still further two rooms of “Boys Quarters”; its own water treatment plant and generator; parking for 20 cars; and an “Olympic size swimming pool”.

 

“122. Third, JPM makes an odd point about the many Shell internal documents cited at FRN Opening §163, which set out Shell’s understanding that at least part of the money to be paid to Malabu would be used to pay bribes to then-current Nigerian officials. The point JPM makes is that most of these documents do not refer specifically to the payment of bribes to Mr Adoke individually, but are “simply generic”. It is hard to see how this assists JPM. The fact that Shell, who were very closely involved in the transaction, understood that bribes would be paid to Nigerian officials, clearly supports the FRN’s case that the Resolution Agreements are illegitimate and corrupt. It directly supports the case on fraud. It indirectly supports the case that Mr Adoke received bribes because he is (i) a Nigerian official; and (ii) the official most closely involved in the Resolution Agreements.”

 

“361. As noted above, Mr Adoke has claimed that he did not speak to Mr Osolake on 20 June, or send the email from the A Group Properties address on 21 June, and would not have done so because he was on holiday and was not in Ministerial office. This is relevant because it goes to Mr Adoke’s character in circumstances in which the Court is being asked to find that he participated in a fraud.

 

“362. Mr Adoke is lying. His claim is contradicted by Mr Osolake’s evidence and the emails Mr Osolake received. Mr Osolake was asked to confirm whether he accepted, as inevitably followed from his own evidence, that Mr Adoke was lying. Tellingly, as the transcript shows, Mr Osolake was reluctant to agree that Mr Adoke had lied, for fear of reprisals in Nigeria, not withstanding that Mr Adoke left office in 2015. Once Mr Osolake had suggested there could be repercussions for him, the point was not pressed further, and Mr Osolake is not to be faulted for his reluctance to answer the question. However, the exchange spoke volumes as to Mr Osolake’s assessment of Mr Adoke’s character and the influence the former Attorney General still wields.”

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