The Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, has said that the Nigerian government is still studying the London High Court judgment that absolved JP Morgan in the civil suit filed against the bank on the purchase by Shell and Eni of the offshore OPL 245 oilfield in Nigeria.
The minister said this on Wednesday while briefing journalists on Wednesday after the Federal Executive council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to Lai, he said the government’s lawyers will study the ruling and decide whether to appeal or not.
The judgment delivered Tuesday by Judge Sara Cockerill posited that the Nigerian government could not show that it had been defrauded as it claimed.
The judgment means that the Nigerian government has lost $1.7billion in claims against JP Morgan Chase Bank over the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 in 2011.
Lawyers to the Nigerian government had contended that the contract awarded to former Petroleum Minister Dan Etete, to explore the deep waters off the Gulf of Guinea was corrupt, alleging that the bank “ought to have known” that there was corruption and fraud in the transaction which saw Malabu sell its 100 per cent in OPL 245 to Shell and ENI for $1.1 billion.”
They had argued that JP Morgan Chase Bank ignored “glaring” red flags, including “overwhelming” evidence of fraud and stark warnings from its own compliance staff when it authorised the payments.
SaharaReporters had on Tuesday reported that the Nigerian government lost $1.7billion claims against JP Morgan Chase Bank over the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 in 2011.
The government had sued JP Morgan on the grounds of “Quincecare duty”, alleging that the bank “ought to have known” that there was corruption and fraud in the transaction which saw Malabu sell its 100 per cent in OPL 245 to Shell and ENI for $1.1 billion.
The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.
From accounts controlled by Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu Abubakar, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil.
Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well of officials of Shell and ENI.
The transaction was authorised in 2011 by ex-president Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.
The oil resources of the OPL 245 license have remained undeveloped since the controversies began.
In the judgement delivered on Tuesday, the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court said there was no proof that Nigeria was defrauded in the deal.
Judge Sara Cockerill had said that by the time of the 2013 payments, the bank was on notice of a risk of fraud.
“There was a risk – but it was, on the evidence, no more than a possibility based on a slim foundation.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria is naturally disappointed by the outcome of the judgment and will be reviewing it carefully before considering next steps. The FRN will continue its fight against fraud and corruption and to work to recover funds for the people of Nigeria.
“This judgment reflects our commitment to acting with high professional standards in every country we operate in, and how we are prepared to robustly defend our actions and reputation when they are called into question,” JPMorgan said in a statement.
The Nigerian government had earlier argued that there were enough “red flags” for JP Morgan to have halted the transfers.
However, the bank rejected Nigeria’s claims, maintaining that all due processes were followed and money laundering checks were done, arguing that allegations of fraud only came up after a new government took over in Nigeria.