Malabu: Dan Etete’s business advisor testifies against Shell and Eni in Milan

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Granier Deferre, an advisor to Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete, testified against two global oil giants; Shell and Eni in Milan on Wednesday during a court trial for their role in what is known as the ‘Malabu Scandal’ in Nigeria, Today’s Echo has gathered.

Oil Prospecting Lease(OPL) 245

In 2011, Shell and the Italian oil company Eni paid $1.1 billion in a murky deal for an oil block located off the coast of Nigeria: OPL 245. According to international body, Global Witness, it was able to track documents showing that this money didn’t go to benefit the Nigerian people.

“Instead it went to convicted money launderer and former oil Minister, Dan Etete, who had awarded himself ownership of the block in 1998 via a company he secretly owned, Malabu Oil and Gas, ” Global Witness says in a report.

After six years of denying any wrongdoing, Global Witness’ investigation forced Shell to admit it knew the money would be diverted into private hands, and went ahead with the deal anyway.

The landmark trial, which began hearing evidence in Milan in September 2018, involves current and former senior staff from two of the world’s largest corporations. They include Eni’s current CEO Claudio Descalzi, and former Royal Dutch Shell Executive Director for Upstream, Malcolm Brinded CBE.

The case brought by the Milan Public Prosecutor alleges that $520 million from the deal was converted into cash and intended to be paid to then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and other Nigerian government officials. The prosecutors further allege that money was also channelled to Eni and Shell executives, with $50 million in cash delivered to the home of Eni’s then head of African Operations Roberto Casula.

On October 17th 2018, Global Witness co-founder, Simon Taylor, gave evidence in the trial, having triggered the investigation which led to the trial by submitting a criminal complaint by Global Witness, Re:Common, and The Corner House in 2013.

Last Week, Today’s Echo reported that Dutch prosecutors were ramping up their case against Shell and the oil giant may face criminal prosecution in Netherlands. Eni has been facing trial for a while in Milan.

If found guilty, senior executives at both companies could go to jail. Shell and Eni could face enormous penalties, and be forced to hand back one of the most promising oil blocks in Africa.

The Trial

Barnaby Pace, who witnessed the trial, said the latest hearing in Milan is the trial of Shell and Eni for their OPL 245 deal in Nigeria.

“The witness today should be Richard Granier Deferre, former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete’s advisor and former lawyer, ” he said before entering the court.

It is alleged that Granier, who helped Etete launder millions of dollars, drew a flowchart mapping out expected kickbacks to Shell and Eni managers from the deal. Executives of both companies denied this.

In the latest hearing on Wednesday, he explained how he helped found the oil company Addax and between 2001 and 2010 was helping Etete, his friend, find a buyer for OPL 245.

“Granier Deferre claims he didn’t know why the middleman (and defendant) Ednan Agaev got in touch with him about OPL 245. But he’s confronted with his previous statement that he knew Shell had told Agaev to get in touch with him, ” Pace, who works with Global Witness said.

“Granier Deferre is then asked about how he introduced the other middleman Obi(Emeka Obi) to Etete at a meeting in Vienna. He knew Obi was connected to Eni but didn’t know if he had a contract. Says he doesn’t remember. Keeps being asked about his previous statements that seem to differ,” he added

Barnaby Pace continued:

“Granier Deferre says he advised Etete on his contract with the middleman Ednan Agaev. Also knew about Etete meeting someone from Eni in Milan but wasn’t at the meeting.

“Granier Deferre is asked about his notes he took on the deal and the famous flowchart. He claims it was his dream of the deal, he say it shows Malabu opening two banks accounts to receive money from the deal and “management’ refers to Malabu not Eni or Shell.

“Prosecutor asks why in 2016 he said management must mean Eni or Shell as Malabu had no management? Granier Deferre now says it definitely didn’t mean Eni or Shell. Prosecutor asks why he has a better memory now? Says he’s telling the truth. Asked didn’t he tell it before?

“Granier Deferre said that looking at the documents three weeks ago and talking to his lawyer he realised the diagram and management had nothing to do with Shell or Eni. He says he was under pressure three years ago when he made the statement.

“Granier Deferre is asked about an email he admits he wrote about the arrival of a beautiful 6.1kg baby. Asked why he talked about kilos when he was paid $6.1m by Malabu? – He says he was actually paid by a different company, Rocky Top which he didn’t know who owned.

“Only a few questions on cross examination. Granier Deferre claims he didn’t know if the middlemen had contracts and asked if he knew if Agaev was a middleman for Shell. Says he didn’t know. That’s the end of the witness testimony for today.”

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