This is the latest in our series of stories on the OPL 245/Malabu Scandal. To get a better understanding of the story, read other stories in the series
SWITZERLAND, JULY 22 -A former Manager of the international oil giant, Eni has revealed the roles played by President Goodluck Jonathan, National Security Adviser Aliyu Gusau, Minister of Petroleum Deizani Madueke and Attorney General Mohammed Adoke in the murky 2011 Malabu oil deal.
This was revealed during the hearing of ex-Eni manager Vincenzo Armanna, a defendant in the ongoing trial of Shell/Eni in Italy for alleged corrupt practices in the 2011 acquisition of Oil Mining Lease (OPL) 245 .
Armanna has accused his former colleagues of knowing that bribes would be paid to Nigerian officials and planning kickbacks for themselves. All deny wrongdoing.
Armanna himself is accused of receiving part of the alleged kickbacks from OPL 245. Armanna received $1.2m from Bayo Ojo, the former Nigerian Attorney General. He says it was an inheritance.
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. However, there are 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.
According to Barnaby Pace who monitored proceedings live from the court, prosecutors alleged in court filings that Armanna had links with Dan Etete, attended negotiations with former Attorney General Mohamed Adoke and “was fully aware of the destination of a large part of the sums paid by ENI to political sponsors of the operation”
Prosecutors also alleged Armanna co-ordinated with fellow defendant, Italian businessman and former Italian Envoy Gianfranco Falcioni and former Nigerian AG Bajo Oyo the failed transfers of the $1.1bn through Swiss and Lebanese banks then into Nigeria.
During the hearing last week, Armanna told the court that he was first hired by Eni in 2006 to help check into suppliers. In 2009 he became a vice president for sub-saharan Africa. He was fired in 2013 over a dispute over 192,000 euros in expenses. According to him, he reached a settlement with Eni later paying him 400,000 euros.
Armanna said he was brought into OPL 245 discussion as the only Eni senior manager in Nigeria and someone was needed to meet Dan Etete. He said he related often to Chief Akinmade, a former head of Eni in Nigeria who knew Etete very well. In contrast the middleman Emeka Obi had no record in the oil industry.
Armanna said Eni saw the OPL 245 block as a lifeline, big oil reserves, offshore reducing security risks. Eni was close to shutting down Eni Nigeria, other companies like Shell were selling their assets.
But there were several problems with the deal from the beginning, including whether Obi worked for Malabu, whether Malabu owned the block and who owned Malabu. The Italian revealed that they knew Malabu shareholding didn’t make sense.
Armanna said the role of Etete and his conviction for money laundering were known inside Eni, it was discussed, the legal office knew. Its impossible to do a joint venture with a convicted money launderer, Eni’s code says you shouldn’t even to talk to them.
Despite this and a $200 million commission demanded by middleman, Emeka Obi, Shell and Eni went ahead with the deal, negotiating with several top Nigerian political leaders including Attorney-General, Mohammed Adoke, Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke, National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau and President Goodluck Jonathan.
Armanna explained to the court that Etete was often referred to as “The fat man”, Jonathan as “Fortunato” and Diezani Alison Madueke as “La Senora” and the project to buy OPL 245 was called “Clear Vision”.
According to Armanna, in October 2010 Eni offered to buy 100% of OPL 245 for $1.26bn direct from Malabu. Eni would pay $980m and Shell the signature bonus. The Nigerian government had already been involved to agree the fiscal terms.
Etete refused the deal because he felt the $200 million to be paid to Obi and his cohorts, including the former CEO of Eni, should go to him
Armanna said they discussed offering an extra $40m with Shell money so Etete could pay Obi. Shell weren’t happy but they were told it was damage control for Etete forget Obi.
The final negotiations took place in the office of the Attorney-General, Mohammed Adoke, with a lot of government officials present. Armanna said he felt it strange that the AG will be this involved in an oil deal.
Armana said in late 2010 Mohammed Abacha, Sani Abacha’s son sued, saying he owned part of Malabu. There was no evidence as he had used a false name like Etete back in 1998 but Eni couldn’t deal directly with Malabu.
Armanna also said Obi told him half his fee was for Diezani Alison Madueke who he called aunty but he didn’t believe him. He said the agreement was crafted so it was the Nigerian government who had to say where the money would go and to what account.
Armanna told the court it was clear to everyone Etete would get over $1bn. There was no doubt the money was going to Malabu, an accusation that has been denied by the Eni’s legal officer.
According to Armanna, it was an explicit request by Eni, rather than Shell, to filter the money through the Nigerian Government so that if asked by the media they could say they paid the Government not Malabu.
Armanna said he was told about cash being taking to Italin envoy, Casula’s house by Victor Nwafor, a security service agent in President Jonathan’s bodyguard.