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OPL 245: Judge indicts Shell, ENI

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An Italian judge, Giusy Barbara, found yesterday that Eni and Royal Dutch Shell were fully aware that their 2011 purchase of Nigeria’s Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL 245) would result in corrupt payments to Nigerian politicians and officials.

Italy’s Eni and Shell bought the OPL 245 offshore field for about $1.3 billion from Malabu Oil and Gas Limited owned by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Dan Etete, in a deal that spawned one of the oil industry’s largest corruption scandals.

It was alleged that about $1.1 billion of the money paid for the oil block was siphoned to agents and middlemen.
The Milan judge made the comment in her written reasons for the September conviction of a Nigerian, Mr. Emeka Obi and Italian, Gianluca Di Nardo, both middlemen in the OPL 245 deal, for corruption.

They were jailed for four years.
“The management of oil companies Eni and Shell … were fully aware of the fact that part of the $1.092 billion paid would have been used to compensate Nigerian public officials who had a role in this matter and who were circling their prey like hungry sharks,” Barbara said in her reasoning.

“It was not mere connivance, but a conscious adhesion to a predatory project damaging the Nigerian state,” she added.
She also said money was given to some Eni managers.
Obi and Di Nardo have been tried separately from Eni and Shell, which also face corruption allegations over the same deal in a hearing that is expected to drag on for months.

But responding to the judge’s remarks, Eni said it would analyze the remarks, noting that a fuller account of the facts and evidence surrounding the deal would emerge only from the main trial.

The Italian company has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Eni shares fell slightly on the judge’s remarks but quickly recovered ground. Shell stock was barely changed.

Under the deal, Eni and Shell jointly acquired the OPL 245 field from a company owned by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete who, the judge noted, had been put under investigation in 2003 in France for alleged money-laundering.
Shell also said yesterday that neither Obi nor Di Nardo had worked for it and that there was no basis to convict it or any of its former staff of alleged offenses related to the oil deal.

Eni Chief Executive, Claudio Descalzi, and four ex-Shell managers, including former Shell’s Head of Upstream, Malcolm Brinded, are also accused of international corruption in the main trial.

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EFCC

Goje denies N25 billion corruption charge

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Sen. Danjuma Goje, the senator representing Gombe Central at the National Assembly has said that at no time did he faced corruption charge totaling N25 billion. Goje disclosed this in Abuja on Thursday in a statement made available to newsmen.

The statement signed by Mr. Paul Erokoro, lawyer to the senator said the claim was “inaccurate and untrue.”

Erokoro was reacting to recent reports in the media that corruption charge being faced by the senator were withdrawn following his decision to step down from the Senate president race in June.

He insisted that the actual amount mentioned in the charge was N9 billion.

“The so-called “N25b fraud” that has been bandied about in the media, never featured in the case.

“The sum total of all the monies mentioned in the charge was about N8b.

“Of that total, N5billion was a loan taken from Access Bank for completion of infrastructural projects such as the Gombe airport, waterworks, numerous roads, Gombe Jewel Hotels, schools, hospitals, and rural electrification.

“The bank testified in Court that the money was properly utilized for the projects. The EFCC investigators also confirmed to the Court that the projects were all completed.”

On the N1 billion agricultural loan, he said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had testified in court that the loan was utilized in full compliance with the bank’s loan conditions.

“Other witnesses told the court that the governor never awarded any contract for the supply of food to Government House and Government Guest Houses during his tenure for the N1 billion alleged in the charge or for any other sum.

“On the N1.6 billion for the supply of English Dictionaries for primary and secondary schools, the Court was told that Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) gave its approval and that the contract was advertised in two newspapers and that reputable book publishers and suppliers tendered and that State Universal Basic Education Board awarded the contract to the lowest bidder.”

He said all the 19 counts of the charge around the above monetary issues collapsed during the trial.

He said because the prosecution witnesses completely exonerated the defendants was why the 19 counts were all dismissed by the court, on the ground of No Case submission.

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Politics

Lai Mohammed to appear in court in fraud case

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The immediate past Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has been scheduled to appear before a Federal High Court, Abuja, to explain his role in the alleged misapplication of N2.5 billion Federal Government Digital Switch-Over (DSO) program.

The planned appearance of Mohammed was revealed by the Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), who is prosecuting the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, over alleged abuse of office and money laundering.

ICPC had filed a 12-count charge before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa, against Kawu, Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade and other, saying that the NBC director general misled the former Minister into approving government funds to a private company.

“The former minister’s involvement had come under questioning following the discovery by ICPC during investigations, that a government White Paper that governs the execution of the DSO program was allegedly flouted by the head of NBC”, ICPC states in a statement Wednesday.

“Mohammed had however admitted in a statement to the Commission that he was misled by Kawu, as opined in court by a witness from ICPC, Osanato Olugbemi.”

Olugbemi, led in evidence by counsel to ICPC, Henry Emore, also told the court that the payment of N2.5 billion from NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited, as seed grant was suspicious because ICPC found out through its investigations that only government-owned company was approved to benefit from the grant according to the White Paper.

The court also heard that the processes that led to the final payment of the fund to the private company were shrouded in secrecy as revealed by the minute from an NBC emergency board management meeting where issues of carriage fees owed Pinnacle and not seed grant was discussed.

He told the court that 47 suspicious transactions were originated by the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications, Omoluwa, immediately after the receipt of the funds on June 2, 2017.

The transactions include payments of N363 million to one Idowu Olatunde, N274.4 million to one James Segun and N127 million to Dipo Onifade, the Chief Operating Officer of the company.

He informed the court that Omoluwa refused to explain the reasons for the payments to Olatunde and James when asked by ICPC, but Onifade explained that he received the N127 million as legal fees he rendered to Pinnacle Communications Limited.

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EFCC

EFCC intensifies war against fraudsters

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The Ibadan zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said it recovered N116,945,981 and 65 vehicles from various operations in the last six years. Other foreign currencies it also recovered within the period include US$39,125; £50 and 1,800 Euros.

The commission spoke through the Head of its Ibadan Zonal office, Mr. Friday Ebelo when he addressed reporters at the Iyaganku, Ibadan zonal office to update the public on the successes achieved by the anti-graft agency within the period.

Explaining how the recoveries were made, Ebelo said the money was partly forfeited to the Federal Government and partly to individuals who were defrauded.
He said: “This briefing is essentially organized to share with you the successes of the commission’s Ibadan zonal office in the last six months.

“With the unwavering support of our Acting Chairman and other stakeholders, the zone has recovered remarkable successes in the period under review.
“This year, the zone received 481 petitions out of which 117 were rejected. About 364 were approved for investigations and we were able to secure 83 convictions out of the 107 cases filed at different courts within the zone. That represents 83 percent of the total number of cases filed.

“From January to June 21, an aggregate sum of N116,945,981.68 was recovered. Others, which are foreign currencies, include $39,125, £1,800 and £50. Also recovered are 65 vehicles – 54 registered and 11 unregistered.”

Decrying the increase in the number of suspects brought to the commission’s office, Ebelo urged parents to monitor their children and wards.

He noted that those in higher institutions, especially, engaged in cybercrimes at an alarming rate.

“I want to say that in the last six months, going by the crime indices done by the commission, most of the suspects brought in are young Nigerians with potentials to be great in life.

“It is not enough to send kids to school; parents should pay unscheduled visits to their schools, especially higher institutions of learnings, and see what the children are doing. That will help to nip in the bud any criminal tendency they might be showing or engaging in.

“Also, we must be wary of using or giving our bank accounts to people around to use to receive funds. Many innocent people are falling victims and it is increasingly becoming difficult to prove, especially when they are the ones who also help them withdraw cash which could have been proceeds of crimes. Parents must monitor their wards and ensure that they do not keep bad company.”

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Legal

Lagos state to arraign killer cop

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The Lagos State Government on Monday took over the prosecution of dismissed Inspector Olalekan Ogunyemi, who is accused of killing a football enthusiast, Mr. Kolade Johnson on March 31. Ogunyemi will now be tried at the high court following the recommendation of Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

He has been in prison since April 5 following his remand by an Ebute-Meta Magistrates’ Court pending the DPP’s advice. The remand order was obtained by the police.

When the case was mentioned on Monday, Magistrate A.O. Salawu said the DPP advised that the case be transferred to the high court.
The DPP, she added, advised that Ogunyemi should be prosecuted in accordance with Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

But the DPP absolved the second suspect, Godwin Oji, of complicity in the case and asked that he should be released.

The magistrate adjourned till August 6 for the case to be filed at the high court.

Ogunyemi, of No. 17, Alhaji Ede Street, Igando, was brought before the court on April 6, on a temporary one-count charge of murder.

Prosecuting Inspector Kehinde Olatunde alleged that he committed the offense on March 31, at about 5:10 pm, at Onipetesi Estate, Idi-Mangoro, Lagos.

Olatunde alleged that Ogunyemi, who served in the Anti-Cultism Unit of the Lagos State Police Command, shot Johnson, a 36-year-old father of one, to death, with his AK47 rifle.

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