9.9BIL DOLLAR P I&D FINE: HOW FG OFFICIALS SPENT BRIBES ON FOREIGN TRIPS, WEDDING, HOLIDAYS BY UK COURT

Olaleye Aluko

Two former officials of the Federal Government in the Process & Industrial Developments $9.6bn case, who were accused of collecting bribes from the Irish firm, said they spent some of the monies to cover a son’s wedding, a medical trip to London, among others.

The two ex-officials, according to the P&ID’s court judgment document, were a senior legal adviser in the Federal Ministry of Justice and a member of the ministry’s technical committee. They explained how they spent the monies in their witness statements before the court.

A London court had on Friday given the Nigerian government more time to appeal in the long-running multi-billion-dollar arbitration case over a failed gas deal.

P&ID had secured a High Court ruling in August 2019 to begin the seizure of $9.6bn in assets – about one-fifth of Nigeria’s foreign reserves.

The Federal Government had appealed the decision in September 2019, despite having missed a deadline to do so, and was given a stay of execution provided it made a $200m security payment.

In a ruling handed to the parties on Friday, the Commercial Court judge, Ross Cranston, granted Nigeria more time to prepare its challenge with new evidence.

“I grant Nigeria’s applications for an extension of time and relief from sanctions,” he said in a written judgment.

According to the court documents, Nigeria, through its legal representative, Mark Howard, alleged that P&ID officials paid more than $700,000 as bribes to some of the government’s officials to procure the gas deal.

Some of the officials are still standing trial and made statements as witnesses before the court.

The court ruling said, “Mr Howard’s case for Nigeria was that P&ID procured the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement by paying bribes to Nigerian officials. In return, these officials overlooked the shortcomings of the P&ID’s bid.”

 

Further checks in the court document showed that 34 witness statements were made before the court, including eight from the Attorney-General, Mr Abubakar Malami.

Two of the statements confirmed alleged bribes spent on medical expenses and a son’s wedding.

The court document said, “Payments/alleged bribes – the alleged bribes which Nigeria relied on for the purposes of the hearing were collected in a schedule. In summary the date and amount of these payments, their source, and the date Nigeria uncovered them, are as follows: a senior legal adviser to the Ministry at time of GSPA. On 19 and 20 August 2010, she made two payments into her Access Bank account, in total US$10,400.

“In March this year, Nigeria discovered payments to the woman’s daughter of US$4,969.50 on 30 December, 2009, and US$5,000 on 31 January 2012 respectively. In her first statement, the official says that at no time did she provide illegitimate assistance to P&ID. In her second statement, she clarifies what she had previously said about the deposit in her bank account on 19 and 20 August 2010 and explains that it represented the proceeds of sale of a number of vehicles and a plot of land.

“As to the payments to her daughter in December 2009 and January 2012 by companies associated with Messrs Quinn and Cahill, she says that they provided financial support for private medical treatment in London and had nothing to do with the GSPA.

“The second official was a member of the ministry’s technical committee until he left in January 2011 to become a commissioner in Lagos State. In his first statement to the court, he states that he was chairman of the technical committee to review P&ID’s proposal.

“He says that in early 2009, he attended an unusual meeting in the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources at the time. Mr Quinn, and a colleague, Neil Hitchcock, were there. The minister directed him to recommend P&ID’s project. After the meeting, Mr Hitchcock dropped a black bag into his car, describing it as a ‘gift’ and that they normally took care of their friends. It contained US$50,000 in cash.

“In his statement, he confirms the bribes outlined earlier in the judgment. The payment of US$30,000 to an oil company (name withheld) on 17 October 2013 was intended for him personally; the two payments of NGN 3,440,000 and NGN 4,350,000 on 3 April 2014 from two companies (name withheld) were intended as P&ID’s contributions to his son’s wedding (the second being funded out of an earlier payment by {one of the companies to the other} on 10 March 2014).”

The court papers continued that a former Nigeria’s legal representative, Olasupo Shasore, defended the country poorly and colluded with P&ID’s officials to make the case fail.

But the Senior Advocate of Nigeria in a statement on Saturday said the allegations were not true, adding that government officials failed to provide documents and witnesses to prosecute the case.

His statement was titled, “Olasupo Shasore SAN: Allegations in the P&ID v FRN Case.”

According to the court judgment, Nigeria’s present counsel, Howard, had in the first two stages of the arbitration, said Shasore “defended the country thinly and the reason was that he had colluded with P&ID with the inevitable result that Nigeria would lose the case.”

The court ruling said, “Mr Howard’s case was that in the first two stages of the arbitration, its counsel, Mr Shasore, deliberately defended the case thinly such that the Tribunal had no choice but to find for P&ID (sic). The reason was that he colluded with P&ID, with the inevitable result that Nigeria would lose the case.”

Shasore, a former President of the Lagos Court of Arbitration, was appointed in 2014 to lead the country out of the P&ID’s saga, but was later replaced by Bolaji Ayorinde, another senior lawyer.

The court judgment said, “It was significant, Mr Howard submitted, that in the arbitration proceedings, Mr Shasore failed to challenge Mr Quinn’s evidence of P&ID’s ability and willingness to perform the contract and the US$40m said to have been expended.

“His attempt at cross-examination of Mr Quinn was bound to fail when he had not challenged anything significant in Mr Quinn’s statement, the issue of cross-examination was foreclosed at the case management hearing in which he participated, and Mr Quinn was dead (which he claimed not to know). Then there were Mr Shasore’s reply submissions, added Mr Howard, where he wrongly asserted that his statement of disputed facts essentially challenged all the facts in Mr Quinn’s statement. Additionally, Mr Shasore dragged his feet when conduct of the arbitration was transferred from the ministry to the Attorney General for the quantum stage.

“At the quantum stage, Mr Howard submitted, Nigeria’s new counsel, Mr Ayorinde, was precluded from reopening the matter. Not only did he not know of Mr Shasore’s behaviour, he had no basis to apply to reopen the Tribunal’s prior findings.”

Meanwhile, Shasore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Attorney-General of Lagos State, on Saturday denied the allegations that he colluded with the firm to ensure that Nigeria did not win the case.

In a statement, Shasore said, “I was instructed in this matter and accepted the instructions on behalf of my firm and to the knowledge of my partners in late 2012 and I made every effort to defend and vindicate my client at every stage with very few tools and with minimal support from within the government itself.

“I represented Nigeria up until the liability stage in the arbitration. I did not represent Nigeria in the damages stage of the arbitration, which means I was not involved when the huge sum of damages was awarded against Nigeria.

“None of these is consistent with the unfounded allegations that I failed to present the best available defence. With very little or no cooperation from relevant government officials at the time, I filed a jurisdiction objection that potentially could and should indeed have terminated the case in favour of Nigeria because it was clear to us from the beginning that the contract was a scheme against Nigeria.

“When the then Nigeria officials failed to supply documents or any witnesses to defend their case, I fought liability by enlisting the support of the legal adviser of NNPC who gave evidence to the best of his knowledge when everyone else with knowledge refused to do so.

“I instructed the UK firm of Stephenson Harwood, a respected international arbitration team and a leading barrister, to attempt to set aside the award on liability in England.

“We overcame numerous hurdles and faced a hostile tribunal, which relied on the testimony of a principal witness who had died before the hearing and whose testimony should have been discounted.

“It is on record that I fought hard for the tribunal to dispense with that evidence. I am happy that the falsity of that testimony has now been recorded in the High Court in England. Indeed this was the ground on which I took the matter to the Federal High Court in Nigeria, which was the proper seat of the arbitration and successfully obtained an order setting aside the liability award.”

Copyright PUNCH.

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