Jonathan describes Malabu oil deal reports as “series of fake news”

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    Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan © Getty

    Former President Goodluck Jonathan has denied allegations that he received $200 million kickback from the OPL 245 Malabu Oil deal.

    It is “false in its entirety,” his media adviser, Ikechukwu Eze said in a statement yesterday.

    He added that it is a “series of fake news” sponsored by those threatened by Jonathan’s “continuously rising profile in the international community.”

    Eze said the report “relied on hearsay evidence from a man of questionable character who provided no substance to back up his false claim.”

    He said the man quoted by the report said he “assumed’ that Jonathan would be bribed.”

    Eze described as “clearly ridiculous” the claim that  Jonathan and former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete had known each other for years when Jonathan served as a tutor to Etete’s children while he was a minister.

    “In the first place, the former President couldn’t have been a ‘tutor’ to Etete’s children without first establishing contact with the family. This is because Jonathan met Etete who served as the Petroleum Minister in Gen. Abacha’s military regime for the first time under the succeeding civilian administration, when he was already the deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. Even then, the fact remains that ex-President Jonathan has never met any of Etete’s children”, he said.

    He added: “It is instructive that this same old fable apparently intended to rubbish Jonathan’s name locally and internationally, is being recycled with more lies added to garnish the narrative, at a time the ex-President is making efforts to resolve the issues in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).”

    Eze said: “while in office and now that he is out of office, former President Jonathan did not open and does not own any bank account, aircraft or real estate outside Nigeria. Anyone with contrary information is challenged to publicly publish same.”

    The former president appealed to the media to report facts rather than innuendo and gossip. “Dr. Jonathan cannot stop criminals from ‘assuming’, but he can and he will stop them from getting away with blatant lies”, Eze said.

    Reps  mulls summoning Jonathan

    A House of Representatives panel is considering summoning the former president over the award Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245.

    An online medium, Premium Times, reported yesterday that a House panel probing the Malabu oil deal chaired by Rep Razak Atunwa (APC, Kwara) was set to summon Jonathan.

    “I can confirm that the former president is now on our radar following new details that were uncovered in latest news reports about the Malabu scandal,” Atunwa.

    Efforts BY Daily Trust to get Atunwa to confirm the statement were not successful.

    The lawmaker, who is said to be out of the country, neither picked his calls nor responded to a text message sent to his mobile phone.

    When asked about the matter during a press conference yesterday, spokesman of the House, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) declined comment, saying he would address it on Thursday.

    But some members of the House said yesterday that there was no move to summon the former president over the issue.

    Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, told journalists that no such issue was ever discussed either on the floor of the House at the leadership level.

    He said as a former president, a committee of the House could not just wake up and say it would summon Jonathan because there are certain processes to be followed.

    Ogor who chaired an ad-hoc panel that probbed the Malabu deal during the 7th Assembly said there was no time that Jonathan was indicted in the matter.

    “I’m not aware any plans to summon the former president. If there is anything to that effect, it will probably be a bit out of place except he/she is not aware of the whole Malabu deal and how Malabu came about.

    “So, I believe that the publication must be something imaginary. But whatever it is, I believe there is nothing impossible. Let’s watch and see how it goes, and we will be able to address them,” Ogor said.

     

    The Malabu deal scandal

    BuzzFeed News and Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore in a joint investigation reveal that Shell’s top executives at the time signed off the deal with full knowledge that the money would go to a front company connected to a former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete.

    For years, Shell has denied the deal involved any payments from Shell or ENI to Etete – who has been convicted in his absence of money laundering in France in a separate case – or to the company he allegedly controlled, Malabu Oil and Gas.

    But documents obtained by BuzzFeed News and Il Sole 24 Ore reveals that: Shell executives knew the deal would benefit Malabu by more than $1 billion.

    The former MI6 agents working for the oil giant said Etete would use payments from a deal to pay bribes to others.

    Ednan Agaev, a former Russian ambassador and intelligence officer who worked on the deal as a representative of Malabu, told the FBI and Italian prosecutors that Etete had told him he needed to pay $400 million in bribes to senior Nigerian officials and parliamentarians.

    Jeffrey Tesler, who admitted guilt as part of a deal with US prosecutors in a separate case involving handling “commissions” for Etete, voluntarily handed over a suitcase containing more than £350,000, allegedly a “gift” from Etete, to a London police station after a company connected with him received $180 million of the proceeds of the deal.

    What followed, after the sudden death of Abacha was years of legal wrangling and allegations of corruption,

    The deal struck by Shell, ENI, Malabu, and the Nigerian government in 2011 was supposed to see an end to the years of back-and-forth: For a total consideration of $1.3 billion, the Nigerian government awarded the block to Shell and ENI.

    The final version of the structure was set up to transfer the $1.09 billion to a London bank account in the name of the government of Nigeria, which then in turn relayed the payment to entities eventually connected with Malabu – meaning that no money from Shell and ENI went directly to Malabu or Etete, even though the deal then benefited Malabu and associates greatly.

    In a letter to Dutch authorities, an Italian prosecutor said he had tracked $737 million of transfers “made in the days immediately following the transfer of the sum from the United Kingdom to the Malabu accounts in Nigeria.”

    In the summer of 2010, the former MI6 agents warned Shell of the purported involvement of Goodluck Jonathan … which they assumed meant he was looking to get a payout from OPL 245.

    “Etete claims he has and has shown a letter from the President reiterating malabu’s 100pc equity/contract ‘award’,” an email from Colegate stated. “This letter clearly an attempt to deliver significant revenues to GLJ [Jonathan] as part of any transaction.”

    These allegations about Goodluck Jonathan – and other alleged bribes – were repeated by Ednan Agaev, a former Russian ambassador and intelligence officer engaged in the OPL 245 negotiations with Shell, representing Malabu.

    In an account of his interview given by the FBI to prosecutors,  “Agaev was asked about payment of his commission. Agaev stated that he went to Etete and told him to pay him the $65,000,000 fee. Agaev stated that Etete said, ‘I can’t pay you, I have to pay Adoke [Mohammed Bello Adoke, then Nigeria’s attorney general] $400 million and all the other people in the Senate and the National assembly.’ Agaev stated that he would think President Goodluck Jonathan got at least $200 million of this money.”