Prosecutors in Italy on Wednesday requested a Milan court to file documents sourced from U.S. bank JP Morgan as part of the Malabu OPL 245 corruption trial.
The prosecutors also requested the court to accept another email allegedly sent by a former Nigerian attorney general, Bello Adoke, from the email address of a company owned by a “middleman” named in the controversial deal, Abubakar Aliyu.
Reuters reports that at a public hearing Wednesday, the prosecutors asked the court to accept the two emails originating from a separate London court case launched by the Nigerian government against JPMorgan Chase.
The emails were sent to Italy by the UK authorities.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported that the Nigerian government is claiming over $1.7 billion for the U.S lender’s role in the disputed oilfield deal.
According to Reuters, the first of the two documents is an email sent by Mr Adoke to the U.S. banking giant allegedly from the email address of a company owned by Mr Abubakar.
Mr Abubakar is the Nigerian “middleman” alleged to have paid $500 million in cash as part of bribes, allegedly shared among officials of the Nigerian government at the time.
Reuters reported that Mr Adoke sent the bank copies of the resolution agreement regarding the oilfield acquisition in the email and the prosecutors said they considered it relevant to establish the relationship between Messrs Adoke and Abubakar.
Mr Adoke has consistently claimed that he only had a mortgage transaction involving Mr Abubakar and a Nigerian lender, which later failed.
He could not be reached by PREMIUM TIMES for days to comment on the email claim. His known phone lines did not connect for several days.
Meanwhile, the second email is said to be between two JPMorgan officials expressing doubts about the transfer of the $1.1 billion to two accounts at Nigerian banks.
On Wednesday, the magistrates said they considered the email significant as it shows there were doubts within the bank over the now controversial transfer.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported extensively about the transfers and the Nigerian officials who authorised the payments.
The court verdict on the admissibility of the two documents would be delivered in February, according to Reuters.
The Malabu OPL 245 scandal is subject to corruption trials in different jurisdictions around the world.
The OPL 245, regarded as one of Africa’s richest oil blocks with an estimated over nine billion barrels of crude, was controversially awarded to Malabu in 1998 by the then petroleum minister, Dan Etete.
Then, Mr Abacha owned 50 per cent of the company while Mr Etete owned 20 per cent through a fictional character, Kwekwu Amafegha.
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The oil block was controversially sold to oil giants, Shell and ENI, in 2011 with a large chunk of the $1.1 billion paid for it ending up in Mr Etete’s accounts with the latter allegedly using a large chunk of it to bribe officials of both the Nigerian government and those of Shell and ENI.
The matter has become a subject of numerous litigations in Nigeria, UK, Italy and others with anti-corruption officials and advocates saying the deals, including the allocation of the oil block, reeks of fraud.
The Nigerian authorities have charged Messrs Etete, Adoke, and several others linked to Malabu with money laundering in connection with the onward flow of funds from the OPL245 deal.
Messrs Etete, Adoke, Abubakar and other parties accused in the trial, including officials of oil giants Eni and Shell, have denied wrongdoing.
Mr Abubakar’s trial will start in the coming weeks in Italy.
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