The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said yesterday that it was almost through with investigation into how the $1.1 billion from the controversial Malabu oil block ( OPL 245) was shared, and those who benefited from the illicit deal.
The commission, it was also learnt, had concluded plans to summon the major actors in the deal, which has further damaged the image of Nigeria before the international community and cast doubts on the nation’s anti-corruption crusade.
It was gathered that the commission, which had quietly been investigating the Malabu oil block scam, concluded in March that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute all those who masterminded the high-profile scam.
The report of the investigation into the scam, which was sighted by our correspondent, revealed that the commission established a prima facie case of conspiracy, breach of trust, theft and money laundering against the individuals and companies involved in the racket.
Beyond the local actors, the anti-graft agency, it was gathered, is going after foreign banks that aided and abetted the laundering of the proceeds from the deal.
An EFCC source said, “We are almost through with investigations into the scam and we are moving towards arresting and prosecuting the suspects in court. We are still investigating because it is a sensitive one involving top-ranking individuals.
“We are also investigating the active involvement of local and foreign banks, which were used to launder the funds as well as those who benefited from the sharing.
“We do not want to rush the investigation and present a shoddy case before the court to avoid a situation where the judge would just dismiss the case,” the source said.
The commission’s decision to go after the suspects followed the recommendation of a panel of operatives, which investigated the scam that a former minister of petroleum resources, Chief Dan Etete, who is believed to have used fronts to secure the controversial OPL 245 while in office, should be invited by the anti-graft agency for questioning.
The panel also approved the summoning of a former Nigerian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Hassan Adamu, and one Kweku Amafeghe, who were listed as directors of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
Similarly, the representatives of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, managing directors of Shell Ultra Deep Nigeria Ltd; Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Ltd, and one Casula of Eni Agip, Mr. John Coplestone of Shell and Mr. Ednan Agaev of International Consulting Ltd of Geneva are to be invited by the commission for questioning regarding their roles in the deal.
The panel also recommended that individuals involved in the sharing of the funds be invited to explain why the proceeds were paid into their accounts, while the Malabu company secretary, Mr. Rasky Gbinigie, be summoned to explain why conflicting documents in relation to the company were filed with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Top Nigerian government officials, who are alleged to have taken part in the underhand sale of OPL 245 to Agip, have refused to speak up on their roles in the controversial deal.
Neither the attorney-general of the federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, nor the minister of state for finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama, has responded to requests to comment on the deal, which they reportedly sanctioned last year. Several attempts to get their reactions to the story were spurned.
Although Shell, which now jointly owns the oil block with Agip, has refused to comment on the matter, Agip has admitted that it was offered the oil block by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Agip has no misunderstanding with anyone. The government, which is the major concessionaire and owner of the land where the oil block is located did not want the block to continue to be left fallow over a misunderstanding between the other parties, and that was why government sold the block to us,” an official of the company, said.
Malabu Oil and Gas Limited were the original operators of the oil block OPL 245 with Shell as its technical partners but ran into some irreconcilable misunderstanding that led to the abandonment of the operation of the block for many years.
But it was clandestinely sold by the government to Agip and Shell, a deal which is now generating unending controversy because of the opaque nature of the transaction.