JP Morgan Chase Bank has countered claims by the Nigerian government in a UK court that Mohammed Bello Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation, took bribes in the OPL 245 deal of 2011.
The Federal Government is seeking compensation of $1.7 billion from JP Morgan, accusing the bank of “gross negligence” in transferring $801 million to Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd in 2011 when “it ought to have known that it was a fraudulent and corrupt scheme”.
Nigeria is trying to prove that the legal agreements that led to the sale of OPL 245 by Malabu, the original allottees, to Shell and ENI was mired in corruption — with particular focus on Adoke who gave the legal advice that led to the resolution of the dispute over the oil block.
JP Morgan, in its opening submissions for trial at the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court, said: “No court – civil or criminal – in any jurisdiction has ever found that there was a fraudulent and corrupt scheme as now alleged.
“On the contrary, the Italian criminal proceedings – in which the defendants included many of the alleged participants in the scheme, including Mr Etete, Shell, Eni, and various current or former employees of Shell and Eni – resulted in all of the accused being acquitted of all.
“When criminal proceedings were launched against Mr Adoke in 2016 in Nigeria, he was successful in obtaining an order from the Federal High Court declaring that his involvement in the negotiation, execution and implementation of the Resolution Agreements “was in furtherance of the lawful directives/approvals of the President in the exercise of his executive powers” and that he could not therefore be held personally liable in respect of the same. As noted above, some of the major participants in the alleged scheme, such as former President Jonathan and former Attorney-General (Bayo) Ojo, have never been charged with any crime.
“Despite the fact that the FRN accuses Shell and Eni of participating in the alleged fraudulent and corrupt scheme, the FGN has never taken any steps to revoke the grant of OPL 245 to SNEPCO and NAE, or to rescind the Block 245 Resolution Agreement pursuant to which the grant was made. It has also advanced arguments in multiple proceedings, including before this Court, which either rely on, or are predicated on the validity of, the Resolution Agreements.”
Nigeria made a number of claims against Adoke in the UK commercial court, alleging that he collected a N300 million bribe in the $1.3 billion OPL 245 deal.
However, Adoke has always denied the allegation, maintaining that a failed N300 million mortgage transaction he did in 2013 — two years after the OPL 245 deal was concluded — was being twisted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to indict him by all means.
He said he got a mortgage of N300 million from Unity Bank to buy a property worth N500 million but when he could not provide his own equity contribution of N200 million, the property developer returned the N300 million loan to the bank and sold the house to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The EFCC is currently trying Adoke in two courts over the N300 million.
In a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, EFCC is accusing him of money laundering for allegedly repaying the N300 million mortgage to Unity Bank in cash.
In an FCT High Court, EFCC is accusing him of corruption over the same N300 million which it says is a bribe.
But testifying on September 7, 2020, Rislanudeen Mohammad, former acting managing director of Unity Bank Plc who is EFCC’s star witness, stunned the court when he said the transaction with Adoke was “transparent and legitimate”.