US lawmakers demand fresh investigation into Shell-Eni OPL 245, implicate Jonathan in $200m bribe

Kunle Sanni 

Two Congressmen from the United States have called for the resumption of a corruption investigation into Shell and Eni’s 2011 purchase of OPL 245, which occurred during President Goodluck Jonathan’s previous administration.

In a letter they jointly signed on May 8, Congressmen Maxine Waters and Joyce Beatty encouraged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to look into how the companies broke the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the nation when they bought what they called one of Nigeria’s most lucrative oilfields.

The lawmakers emphasised in the letter obtained by Westernpost Friday, that the evidence at hand suggests that the contentious agreement links both businesses to a scheme that paid S1.1 billion in bribes to Nigerian government officials, including former President Goodluck Jonathan.

According to the letter, the deal was in contravention of the FCPA, Shell and Eni—who are both registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—continue to profit from the transaction.

The congressmen who chair the financial services and the nations’s national security committees further highlighted that US law forbids persons and businesses from bribing foreign government officials to advance their business interests.

“We write to urge the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reopen a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation into Shell and Eni regarding their 2011 purchase of the rights to Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, one of Nigeria’s most lucrative oilfields. Available evidence implicates both companies in a scheme that resulted in the payment of $1.1 billion in bribes to Nigerian government officials, including then-President Goodluck Jonathan,” the lawmakers letter read.

According to the lawmakers, the anticipated losses from the contentious 2011 contract were estimated to be over $6 billion, which is significantly more than Nigeria’s yearly budget for health and education.

“Allegations of corruption surrounding OPL 245 began in 1998, when Dan Etete, a convicted money launderer and Nigeria’s former oil minister during the military dictatorship of General Sani Abachn, awarded the OPL 245 license to Malabu Oil & Gas, a company whose principal shareholders were revealed to be Etete himself and the son of General Abacha. 

“The rights to OPL 245 continued to be marred with corruption,’ and in 2000, Malabu’s share registry was changed to refleet a 50″a shareholding by Pecos Energy, a company secretly controlled by then-President Obasanjo and his Vice President. 

“Malabu’s license was revoked in 2001 but restored in 2006, with evidence suggesting that bribes paid to then-Attorey General Bayo Ojo played a key role in that decision, Shell and Eni then purchased the license from Malabu in 201 1 for $1.3 billion with knowledge that a portion of the proceeds would be used to bribe numerous Nigerian officials, including then-President Goodluck Jonathan.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars passed through various Nigerian shell companies linked to Aliyu Abubakar, a businessman known in his country as “Mr. Corruption.”2 Then-President Goodluck Jonathan was said to have pocketed some $200 million from the sale, and the former Attorney General involved in the 2006 reinstatement of Malabu’s license also purportedly received a sizable payout. Other funds would later be traced to the purchase of real estate in the U.S., Dubai, Brazil, and Switzerland, as well as luxury vehicles and eems.

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