Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption group insisted on Sunday that former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) should retract his position on the fraud associated with OPL 245 or be sued in the law court.
In the petition titled “Defamation of Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju and HEDA Resource Centre” the group said Adoke in collaboration with some lawyers is resorting to blackmail in order to subvert the lingering investigations of graft associated with OPL 245. HEDA gave Adoke and his lawyer 2 weeks to retract the statement of be taken to court in the UK.
HEDA said Adoke and his legal team are exploiting the “fragile state and weak political environment” to launder a string of campaigns to redeem the image of key actors in the series of financial misdeeds linked to the OPL 245 deal
Signed by HEDA’s Chairman Olanrewaju Suraju, the group said Adoke’s “campaigners” wrongly accused HEDA of forging evidence (in the form of an email, a screenshot of which was reproduced in the article) that had been admitted as evidence by the Milan Court in the trial of Shell, Eni and other defendants on charges of international corruption relating to the OPL 245 transaction of 2011.
“This is a case of a legal team deliberately distorting facts already accepted globally without blemish. It is unprofessional to describe as forged a document tendered and accepted as a.legal document by international law courts just to create a safe passage for suspects.”
Adoke’ statement had alleged that HEDA and his Chairman are “leading the Nigerian axis of the failed campaign to criminalise and defame Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN” and it accused “campaigners” of forgery.
Oboro in his letter had stated “In our client’s view, the poor work of forgery exhibited in the email admitted by the court, is not the first. This is the second time the desperate campaigners are forging “evidence” against our client.”
Suraju said the role of HEDA Resource Centre as one of the parties responsible for the petition that led to the OPL 245-related investigations and prosecution in Nigeria is widely known in Nigeria and across the world.
HEDA said the accusation that it forged the email in question or any other evidence submitted to the courts in Milan or elsewhere is entirely untrue and highly defamatory.
HEDA said the email came to light after it was disclosed by JP Morgan Chase to Nigeria as a result of proceedings in the High Court in London where the FRN is currently suing the bank for damages relating to its handling of funds arising from Shell and Eni’s acquisition in 2011 of the OPL 245 oil field in Nigeria.
In its claim, Nigeria stated that an email had been sent by Adoke on 21 June 2011 to Bayo Osolake, employee at JP Morgan Chase, from the email address “firstname.lastname@example.org” and that copies of the Resolution Agreements for the OPL 245 deal were attached to the email.
HEDA noted that the Nigerian authorities further stated in court documents that the email address was associated with “the A Group of Nigerian companies controlled by Mr Abubakar Aliyu”, a Group Construction, which is part of the network, subsequently received some of the OPL 245 funds which were transferred by JP Morgan to a company named Malabu Oil & Gas.
“Having become aware of the email, which was believed to be relevant to the prosecution in Milan of Royal Dutch Shell, Eni Spa and others, our partners, acting in the public interest, informed the Milan Prosecutor of the FRN’s statements to the High Court in London. The Milan Prosecutor issued a European Investigation Order (Ref:54772/13) to the UK, seeking the email from JP Morgan. The UK authorities complied with the request and obtained the email, which was subsequently transmitted by the UK authorities to the Milan Prosecutor,” HEDA noted.
The anti-corruption group said on January 20 this year the Milan Prosecutor sought permission in open court from the Milan Tribunal to have the email accepted as evidence adding that the official court transcript records that the Prosecutor detailed the procedure through which the email had been obtained from JP Morgan by the UK authorities.
According to HEDA, the Milan Tribunal subsequently accepted the email as evidence in the trial and the Prosecutor presented it to the court on 3 February 2021. HEDA said the email was obtained by the Milan Prosecutor through a government-to-government request from Italy to the United Kingdom and that the documentation is now part of the public record that the email was obtained from JP Morgan by the UK Serious Fraud Office and transmitted directly to the Milan Prosecutor.
Neither the HEDA Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju nor any other “campaigners” were involved at any stage in the chain of custody, the group said warning that the accusation without evidence, is libellous.