OPL 245: Defendant contradicts self over alleged $200m bribe to Jonathan

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Jonathan Metuh
Ex-Presudent Goodluck Jonathan

A twist emerged on Wednesday in the Italian trial of Shell, Eni and others for alleged corruption in Nigeria as a Russian defendant in the case, Ednan Agaev,, contradicted his earlier claim that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, received $200 million bribe from the sale of an oil block, OPL 245.

Agaev, a former Russian ambassador to Colombia, and middleman in the deal, had told American Federal Bureau of Investigation agents under interrogation that Jonathan received the bribe through former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.

A journalist, Barnaby Pace, who observed Wednesday’s proceedings in Milàn, tweeted that the defendant said he dropped Adoke’s name because the American prosecutor was quite “aggressive” and demanded for a name.

“Agaev contradicts his FBI statement saying now that nobody ever asked for bribes, previously he said oil deals in Nigeria were hard because people asked for kickbacks and the amount of kickbacks kept changing.

“Agaev’s statement is read where he said Etete told him “I can’t pay you, I have to pay Adoke [Mohammed Bello Adoke, then Nigeria’s attorney general] $400 million and all the other people in the Senate and the National assembly’. Agaev says he doesn’t confirm the statement.

“Agaev now claims he was under pressure in the interview to mention a name so said Adoke. He says he didn’t mean for his interview to be used against him and refuses to confirm his statement. The prosecutor asks why Agaev lawyer didn’t protest, or mention this in his statement.

“Agaev now claims he was under pressure in the interview to mention a name so said Adoke. He says he didn’t mean for his interview to be used against him and refuses to confirm his statement. The prosecutor asks why Agaev lawyer didn’t protest, or mention this in his statement.

“Agaev claims the prosecutor was aggressive in his interview and he had to remind him he was an ambassador of a great power. The Judge dismisses this saying its just his opinion we can just move on.

“Agaev is asked whether he thought Goodluck Jonathan got money from the deal. He says his statement to the FBI should be understood that he thought it was a possibility money would go to Jonathan.

“Agaev is confronted with his statement where he said “I heard from Chief, he claims that he had to pay 400 million, so, if this is true, if he paid 400 million, then most probably the President, as the biggest boss, took at least the half of it.”

“Big blow up moment. A defence lawyer interrupted trying to object to the evidence on payments to Jonathan. The President of the court angrily silenced him even as the lawyer continued to try to interrupt. A hush fell over the court as the judge reminds them of etiquette.

“Agaev claims that Etete had so much influence he didn’t need to bribe anyone. Agaev is confronted with his previous statement that Etete might have had to pay some officials. Agaev says this was just him speculating but doesn’t want to confirm his statement.”

Jonathan has denied receiving any bribes.

Earlier, Agaev had spoken of how he met with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and had discussions with him on the sale of the oil block.

He also mentioned discussions with erstwhile Nationality Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, on the disputed block.

Shell and Eni executives have declined to testify.

In the tweets, Pace wrote: “Agaev knew former President Obasanjo for the first time in the 80s, he campaigned for Obasanjo’s release in the 90s. After Obasanjo’s release he visited Agaev in Columbia. Agaev says he didn’t learn about OPL 245 until 2008 though when working for a Russian oil company.

“Agaev says he knew the OPL 245 block was revoked because Etete was associated with Malabu, the company owning the block. Agaev claims Obasanjo said the block was actually intended for Abacha, after Abacha’s death it fell to Etete.

“Agaev says Obasanjo said he had to give the block back to Malabu because of legal mistakes in the revocation. Claims Malabu won in court, the prosecutors points out that actually Malabu lost in court.

“Agaev said people tried to politicise the decision but “the main reason was legal”. The prosecutor then confronts Agaev with his FBI interview Agaev said the block was given back to Etete by Obasanjo to shore up political support in the the south of Nigeria.

“Agaev says he was introduced to Etete by General Gusau in 2008, Gusau had been the National Security Advisor under President Obasanjo and then later under Goodluck Jonathan. Gusau wanted him to find a Russian oil company investor to deal with Etete and Shell.

“Agaev says Gusau introduced him to John Coplestone of Shell. Gusau knew Coplestone because he had been head of the MI6 station in Abuja.

“Agaev says he only ever met Etete from Malabu, he was the only person representing them on OPL 245. Gusau wanted to make money from a Russian investor. Gusau had previously helped free 15 Russian hostages held by militants.

“Agaev says his job was only to find an investor. Etete was in charge of negotiating with the Nigerian government, Etete didn’t need any help or contacts from Agaev.

“Agaev describes Shell executives Coplestone and Colegate as intelligence agents. Coplestone head of MI6 in Nigeria, Colegate was in charge of intelligence in Hong Kong. Peter Robinson was in charge of business.”

The Russian opened a new vista into the matter when he named a second middleman, Emeka Obi, according to Pace.

“Agaev explains the other middleman Emeka Obi had a plan to agree a sale price with Etete, agree a higher price with Eni and Obi would get the difference, the “excess price” but this didn’t work. Agaev says his commission was to come from Etete.

“Agaev is asked about Granier Deferre’s diagram with money from the deal flowing to “management”. Agaev says he doesn’t know about the diagram but Malabu had no management, Etete always called himself an advisor to Malabu but they had no managers.

“Agaev is being asked about his fellow middleman Obi’s meeting with Gusau, he says he thinks Obi wanted to know about the security situation. Obi’s meeting with Diezani Alison Madueke, he vaguely says it was probably about technical issues with OPL 245.

“Agaev is asked whether Shell knew he was being paid a commission. He says yes, he had to prove he had a mandate with Malabu. Otherwise Shell employees were under very strict instructions not to discuss OPL 245.”

In the course of the cross-examination, the Russian referred to a purported dalliance between Jonathan and his Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Dieziani Alison-Madueke.

“Agaev says he was told by Gusau of the rumoured romantic relationship between Goodluck Jonathan and Alison Madueke. Gusau also called her “extremely greedy and a crook”. Agaev says Gusau” was head of the secret services so I assume he knew what he was talking about”.

“Agaev says Coplestone or Colegate told him when senior Eni executives were visiting Abuja to try to do a deal for OPL 245. Agaev says a sticking point was Shell didn’t want to pay any cash in the deal as they had already invested in the block.

“Agaev says the Nigerian Govt wouldn’t accept if the price for the block was less than $1.5bn, they knew how valuable the block was. He’s pressed and then says Etete wouldn’t accept a lower price so the govt wouldn’t have a deal to approve.”

The trial has been adjourned till July 17, 2019.

 

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