By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, re-arraigned the immediate past Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Gwagwalada, on an amended 42-count corruption charge.
Adoke who is facing trial over the alleged role he played in the “fraudulent” transfer of ownership of an oil bloc, OPL 245, regarded as one of the biggest in Africa, took fresh plea alongside two others, Aliyu Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie and four companies- Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited.
The Defendants, who were initially docked before the court on January 23, 2020, pleaded not guilty to the amended charge that was read to them before trial Justice Abubakar Kutigi.
The Prosecution counsel, Mr Bala Sanga, said the charge was amended “to enlarge the scope of criminal liabilities” against the Defendants.
Meanwhile, Justice Kutigi adjourned the case to April 14 for the commencement of the hearing, even as he allowed the Defendants to go home on terms of the bail the court earlier granted to them.
EFCC had in the charge marked FCT/CR/151/2020, alleged that Adoke who served as AGF under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, and the other defendants, were involved in fraud and bribery in the Malabu Oil bloc deal, to the tune of about $1.1billion.
EFCC alleged that Adoke who was arrested upon his return to the country from Dubai, United Arab Emirate, on December 19, 2019, received gratification to facilitate the alleged oil bloc fraud.
It alleged that it was the ex-AGF that mediated controversial agreements that ceded OPL 245 to two oil giants, Shell and Eni, who in turn paid about $1.1 billion to accounts controlled by an ex-convict and former Petroleum Minister, Chief Dan Etete.
OPL 245 was initially awarded to Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd in 1998 by the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha, in a process, the EFCC insisted was against all known government regulations.
EFCC said its investigations revealed that Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd secured OPL 245 through a fraudulent scheme involving high scale bribery and corruption by top management of the company and some government officials.
According to the charge, the former AGF, in August 2013 in Abuja, while serving as a minister knowingly received United State Dollars equivalent of N300million which is reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully obtained and thereby committed offence punishable under Section 319A of the Penal Code, Cap. 532laws of the federation of Nigeria 1990.
It was alleged that the defendants had some time in 2013, in Abuja, dishonestly used as genuine, the forged form CAC 7 and Board Resolution of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, as well as the letter of resignation of one Mohammed Sani, and opened a Bank Account No. 2018288005 with First Bank of Nigeria Plc, with which they received the sum of $401,540,000.00.
The defendants were said to had by their action, committed an offence contrary to section 366 of the Penal Code and punishable under the same section of the Penal Code.
According to EFCC, Adoke, had in September 2013, knowingly and unlawfully obtained the sum of US dollars equivalent to N367,318,800 and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 319A of the Penal Code, Cap.532 laws of the federation of Nigeria 1990.
Some of the counts in the charge read: “That you Mohammed Bello Adoke, being a public servant at the material time, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice of the Government of Nigeria, sometime in 2013, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, accepted for yourself without consideration, the sum of N300m to broker the negotiation and signing of the Block 245 Resolution Agreement with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited and thereby committed an offence under section 119 of the Penal Code and punishable under the same section of the Penal Code.
“That you Rasky Gbinigie, Munamuna Seidougha (at large), Amaran Joseph (at large) and Dauzia Loya Etete (at large), sometime in 2013, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, dishonestly used as genuine the forged form CAC 7 and Board Resolution of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and the letter of resignation of one Mohammed Sani, which you then knew to be forged documents to open a Bank Account No. 2018288005 to receive the sum of $401,540,000.00 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 366 of the Penal Code and punishable under the same section of the Penal Code”.
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