OPL 245 Trial Exposes Influence of British, Russian Intelligence on Nigeria’s Oil

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SWITZERLAND, JUNE 27 – You knew that Shell needed permission from the Nigerian oil minister for the deal? ”

“Yes.”

“You knew this oil minister, Mrs. Diezani, is a former Shell employee?”

“Yes.”

“You also knew she had a love affair with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan?”

“Yes, there were rumors.” His source worked in the secret service.

The above was part of the cross examination of a Russian diplomat, Adnan Agaez, who is both a witness and a defendant in the ongoing trial of Shell and Eni oil executives for their role in the illegal acquisition of Nigeria’s Oil Prospecting Lease(OPL) 245, known as the Malabu scandal in Nigeria.

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, ” a report said.

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.

Ednan Agaev, a middleman for Malabu and the oil companies, once claimed during an FBI investigation that former President Goodluck Jonathan probably received $200m in the deal.

Agaev’s testimony on Wednesday, though dodgy, reveals a great deal, the influence of foreign intelligence agents in Nigeria’s oil.

One of Agaev’s shocking revelations was that Shell executives,John Coplestone and Colegate are British intelligence agents recruited for their understanding of Nigeria’s political terrain. Coplestone was head of MI6 in Nigeria, Colegate was in charge of intelligence in Hong Kong. Peter Robinson was in charge of business.

Below are snippets from Agaev’s testament, as reported by British activist, Barnaby Pace who was at the court in Milan on Wednesday:

Agaev explained that he started his career for the Soviet Union Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he was a senior official for arms control, took part in nuclear arms negotiations, was a senior official at the UN and Ambassador for Russia to Columbia.

Agaev knew former President Obasanjo for the first time in the 80s, he campaigned for Obasanjo’s release in the 90s. After Obasanjo’s release he visited Agaev in Columbia. Agaev says he didn’t learn about OPL 245 until 2008 though when working for a Russian oil company.

Agaev said he knew the OPL 245 block was revoked because Etete was associated with Malabu, the company owning the block. Agaev claimed Obasanjo said the block was actually intended for Abacha, after Abacha’s death it fell to Etete. He also said Obasanjo said he had to give the block back to Malabu because of legal mistakes in the revocation.

He also said the block was given back to Etete by Obasanjo to shore up political support in the the south of Nigeria.

Agaev said he was introduced to Etete by General Gusau in 2008, Gusau had been the National Security Advisor under President Obasanjo and then later under Goodluck Jonathan. Gusau wanted him to find a Russian oil company investor to deal with Etete and Shell.

Agaev said Gusau introduced him to John Coplestone of Shell. Gusau knew Coplestone because he had been head of the MI6(British Intelligence) station in Abuja.

Agaev said he only ever met Etete from Malabu, he was the only person representing them on OPL 245. Gusau wanted to make money from a Russian investor. Gusau had previously helped free 15 Russian hostages held by militants.

According to him, his job was only to find an investor. Etete was in charge of negotiating with the Nigerian government, Etete didn’t need any help or contacts from Agaev.

Agaev further explained to the prosecutors that another middleman Emeka Obi had a plan to agree a sale price with Etete, agree a higher price with Eni and Obi would get the difference, the “excess price” but this didn’t work. Agaev says his commission was to come from Etete.

During the cross-examination, Agaev was asked whether Shell knew he was being paid a commission. He said yes, he had to prove he had a mandate with Malabu. Otherwise Shell employees were under very strict instructions not to discuss OPL 245.

Agaev further said he was told by Gusau of the rumoured romantic relationship between Goodluck Jonathan and Alison Madueke. Gusau also called her “extremely greedy and a crook”. Agaev says Gusau” was head of the secret services so I assume he knew what he was talking about”.

Agaev said Coplestone or Colegate told him when senior Eni executives were visiting Abuja to try to do a deal for OPL 245. Agaev says a sticking point was Shell didn’t want to pay any cash in the deal as they had already invested in the block.

Agaev says the Nigerian Govt wouldn’t accept if the price for the block was less than $1.5bn, they knew how valuable the block was. He’s pressed and then says Etete wouldn’t accept a lower price so the govt wouldn’t have a deal to approve.

He also said Shell was worried about the role of the Attorney General Mohamed Adoke, that he would take Malabu’s side too much. Etete told Agaev he and Adoke were close and Adoke was in turn close to Goodluck Jonathan.

Agaev spoke about a meeting with senior Eni executive Roberto Casula. Etete wanted to know if he had to pay the middleman Obi. Casula said it wasn’t his business. Casula said he wasn’t there to negotiate but Etete wanted to talk to decision makers for Eni and got angry.

Agaev is asked about the former Eni executive Vincenzo Armanna (in the room), he says Etete told him Armanna threatened to kill him and he was full of bullshit.

After the deal was done Agaev took Etete to Moscow, in late spring (the weather was nice). Etete was very happy, he got over a billion dollars but didn’t want to pay Agaev so he sued for $66m in London and tried to freeze the money.

Although during this hearing, Agaev denied a lot of what he had earlier revealed to the FBI, he has revealed what many have always suspected; intelligence agencies are heavily involved in Big oil; from the CIA to the Russians and the French, to Mi6 and Mossad, the oil and gas industry provides a perfect cover to infiltrate other countries.

According to British analyst Simon Clydesdale, “links between Big Oil and intelligence agencies rarely laid bare so clearly as in the OPL 245 oil corruption case. Here it’s Shell who have embedded spooks in their operations, but it’s understood this is widespread in the industry. Not your average business model.”

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