The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday re-arraigned a businessman, Mr Aliyu Abubakar, and seven firms, before the Federal High Court in Abuja in connection to alleged fraudulent $1bn transaction concerning the controversial Oil Processing Lease 245.
The defendants were previously arraigned on 48 counts of money laundering, but an amendment saw the charges increased to 67.
The transactions surrounding the OPL 245 are otherwise referred to as Malabu Oil scam, a description derived from the name of the firm which played a key role in the alleged fraudulent deals which spanned many years.
Malabu Oil and Gas Limited is named in the case as the first defendant, while Abubakar, is the eighth defendant.
The other defendants are A-Group Construction Company Limited, Rocky Top Resources Limited, Mega Tech Engineering Limited, Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, imperial Union Limited and Carlin International Nigeria Limited.
In one of the counts, the prosecution alleged that Malabu Oil, and two of its directors, said to be on the run – Seidougha Munamuna and Dauzia Etete – “took control of the sum of $40,540,000” allegedly paid from the Federal Government’s Escrow Account with JP Morgan Chase Bank in London into Malabu Oil’s account with First Bank of Nigeria Limited.
The EFCC said the defendants “reasonably ought to have known that the funds formed part of the an unlawful activity” of “negotiation, signing and payment in respect of the Block 245 Resolution Agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited.”
The commission also alleged that “taxes, accruals and royalties to the Federal Government of Nigeria were unlawfully waived” in the transactions.
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Bala Sanga, said the defendants acted contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended) and were liable to punishment under Section 15(3) and 15(4) of the same Act.
Abubakar was also accused of using his companies, some of which are named as defendants in the case, to receive funds which were proceeds from the Malabu Oil deal.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the 67 counts on Tuesday.
Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed September 10 for the commencement of trial.