Nigeria: OPL 245 – UK’s Anti-Fraud Agencies Gave Us Go-Ahead to Pay Malabu, Says JP Morgan

JP Morgan Chase Bank (JPMC) says it sought and got the approval of UK anti-fraud agencies before transferring funds to Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd from the sale of OPL 245 to Shell and ENI in 2011.

The bank, in its opening submissions for trial at the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court, said it sought consent from the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which considered the request in tandem with the Metropolitan Police Service’s Economic and Specialist Crime Proceeds of Corruption Unit.

“SOCA told JPMC that it was engaging with a UK law-enforcement officer based in Nigeria and the UK High Commission in Nigeria as part of its investigation,” it said.

“SOCA, which had access to far more information about the relevant events than JPMC did, gave its consent for JPMC to make the payment.” JPMC said the payment requests were subjected to “a high degree of scrutiny within JPMC”.

“As will appear, despite its limited role in relation to the 2011 settlement, JPMC went to considerable lengths to ensure that the payments it was asked to make were correctly authorised and should be made. That involved a large number of the bank’s personnel, many very senior, in the UK, US and Nigeria,” it said.

“For example, JPMC attended meetings with senior representatives of the FGN in Nigeria to conduct the necessary “know your customer” (“KYC”) checks and to verify the authorised signatories for the Depository Account. JPMC understood that the purpose of the Resolution Agreements was to settle the long-running disputes about OPL 245 and that President Jonathan had personally approved the settlement.”

Shell and ENI paid a total of $1.3 billion to Nigeria’s account at JP Morgan — $801 million to Malabu, the original OPL 245 llottees, and $210 million as signature bonus to the federal government.

Nigeria is seeking $1.7 billion from JP Morgan for allegedly failing in its Quincecare duty which, the country says, would have revealed that the deal was a “fraudulent and corrupt scheme” .

An Italian court in March 2021 dismissed all charges of corruption in the transaction, discharging and acquitting all the defendants, including Shell, ENI and Dan Etete.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) previously investigated the OPL 245 deal and announced in October 2019 that it was closing the case.

In April 2020, the US Securities and Exchange Commission also closed investigation into the controversial deal after it could not prove fraud or corruption.

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