Nigeria Delaying Return of $85m Seized from Ex-Minister in UK
The inaction of the Nigerian government has been blamed for the delays experienced in the repatriation of the sum of $85 million seized from ex-minister, Dan Etete by a court in the United Kingdom in a trial connected with the infamous Malabu oil deal.
The Nation newspaper quotes UK newspaper, the Evening Standard of London as reporting that the failure of the federal government to send a proceeds-of-crime submission to the judge of a UK court is stalling the recovery of the money which is frozen in a NatWest bank account in London.
The situation has left the funds ‘frozen’ and the court case ‘languishing’, according to the Evening Standard of London.
The $85m seized from Etete is believed to be part of the proceeds from the award of the licence of OPL245 – an oilfield containing an estimated nine billion barrels of crude – made by Etete to Malabu Oil & Gas, for $20 million, said to be a tiny fraction of its real value.
The ownership of the oilfield was the subject of a legal tussle between Malabu and Shell before the federal government sold it to Eni and Shell jointly.
$1.09 billion of the money paid by the two companies later found its way to Malabu but the management of both Shell and Eni claimed ignorance of who paid the $1.09billion to Malabu.
The UK newspaper said investigators at Britain’s National Crime Agency probing the Malabu oil deal and alleged money laundering through UK properties are frustrated by alleged inaction from Nigeria’s end.
“Last week, the two governments agreed criminal assets stolen in Nigeria and seized in Britain can be returned to the West African country, but such breakthroughs are rare,” it said.
“Buhari’s governing style is also a source of frustration. Critics say he is slow in his decision-making, which allows the EFCC to wallow in indecision,” the report stated.
The Malabu Oil deal is believed to have led to the siphoning off of $1 billion from a $1.3 billion international investment in the lucrative oil block through ‘fees’ to Etete’s company and middlemen.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Edis said: “Given the large sums of money involved that are effectively paid to a former minister to a bank account in the Middle East, the whole exercise is backed by murky instruction.”
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