New evidence from the London Commercial Court, where Nigeria is suing JP Morgan Chase bank, has established that former Attorney-General, Mohammed Bello Adoke, used his personal email address to correspond with A Group Properties, a company owned by businessman Aliyu Abubakar, over the blocked transfer of funds from 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 Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1billion 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 ($520million) 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 of 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 blocks.
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.
Others 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.
SaharaReporters learnt that a company owned by businessman Abubakar, A Group Properties’ email address was also tied to other correspondence relating to fund transfers.
Until now, only one email apparently linking the firm to Adoke was in the public domain.
That email, which was sent on 21 June 2011 from [email protected] to JP Morgan, was signed by a “Mohammed Bello Adoke”.
The email was obtained by the Italian authorities, following a Mutual Legal Assistance request to the UK.
However, Adoke has claimed that the email was forged by Olanrewaju Suraju, the chair of HEDA. He has however provided no evidence to substantiate the claim.
Suraju is now suing Adoke for libel, a case that comes to court in Nigeria on 17 March 2022.
Forgery charges bought by the Ministry of Justice against the activist have been dropped.
The new emails, disclosed by JPM Morgan revealed that Adoke used his personal email address ([email protected]) to correspond with [email protected] on 10 August 2011.
The email was written following the refusal of a Lebanese bank to transfer funds to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by former oil minister, Dan Etete, who had awarded it the OPL 245 licence in 1998 during his term in office.
The email, which was also sent to JP Morgan, included a letter from Adoke seeking to justify transfers of the OPL 245 funds from the account held by Nigeria with JP Morgan.
No explanation has been given by the former AGF as to why Aliyu’s company should have been copied in to the email.
Documents disclosed by JP Morgan also reveal that Peter Bosworth, the CEO of a company called Arcadia, and business associate of Etete, provided [email protected] with a document from the Lebanese bank, giving its reasons for refusing the transfer.
In its pleadings to the Commercial Court in London, the Nigerian government said, “On 4 August 2011, JPM attempted to make payment to Malabu’s account with the Lebanese bank BML. BML rejected the payment. Its correspondent bank required further information about the purpose of the payment before agreeing to apply the funds. Peter Bosworth the CEO of Arcadia (which later received money from Etete as did Bosworth himself) was in behind-the-scenes discussions with Fadi Daouk of BML, and obtained a copy of the SWIFT rejection, despite Arcadia having (on its face) nothing whatsoever to do with the transaction.
“Mr Daouk used his Hotmail address and not his work address for this correspondence. Mr Bosworth passed the SWIFT to Etete, who passed it to Adoke ([email protected]).”
In a cross examination lasting two days, bank employee Bayo Osolake, who was Adoke’s contact at the bank, was extensively questioned about his interactions with the former Attorney General.
Osalake was questioned by the Nigerian government’s lawyer, Roger Masefield QC, about a telephone call that JP Morgan said Adoke made to the bank on 20 June 2011, a date when Adoke was no longer in office.
The call is recorded in an email from Osolake.
Asked if Adoke was lying when he denied making the call, Osolake stated, “I can only confirm what I said in the email”, adding that he could not say more because “there are powerful people in Nigeria” and he “still visits the country.”