How Nigeria can polish global image with Malabu oil deal – Experts
International financial and anti-corruption experts have pointed to ways Nigeria can shore up her global reputation with OPL 245 oil deal otherwise known as Malabu oil deal in which a former minister of petroleum, Dan Etete, and others were charged in a swirl of bribery.
Mr. Martin Kenny, Managing Partner of Martin Kenney & Co., Solicitors, a specialist investigative and asset recovery practice based in the British Virgin Island, BVI, assisted by Tony McClements, Senior Investigator at Martin Kenney & Co, said the reported seizure of a luxury private jet belonging to Etete in Canada would send a strong signal to the world that Nigeria was serious with her anti-corruption war.
Etete was said to have used part of his illicit cut of the $1.3 billion oil deal to purchase the luxury jet. The Nigerian government’s asset recovery lawyers seized the aircraft after it landed at Montreal-Trudeau airport towards the end of last month.
The company which owns the jet appears to be a British Virgin Islands (BVI) entity. According to reports by Lionel Faull and Margot Gibbs in Finance Uncovered and The Premium Times in Nigeria, the company is “anonymously owned.” But Kenny says that as an asset recovery professional who practices in the BVI, this is unlikely to be the case.
He said: “Ultimate beneficial ownership details are now identified and recorded for every BVI company. Although this information is held confidentially it is far from secret. Competent authorities can access this information or, in the alternative, lawyers such as myself can do so, provided we have sufficient grounds in the eyes of the court.”
Etete whose jet was seized is rumored to have received $336 million in exchange for agreeing to the OPL245 oil deal on the government’s behalf, which has now led to the initiation of a corruption trial in Italy. The former oil minister and his alleged co-conspirators all deny the charges against them.
“Asset recoveries such as this form a key part of the Nigerian government’s attempts to reimburse the public purse and improve its global image. Though they are complex and likely to be drawn-out, for a state synonymous with corruption and fraud it is a huge step in the right direction. Just because the task ahead is daunting does not mean that it should not be attempted.
“Nigeria has been rightly criticized over its notorious “419” advance-fee frauds (so-called because of the section of Nigeria’s Criminal Code which outlaws the practice), among other frauds. Rarely has any state had so many “princes” with so much money to launder,” Kenny wrote in his FCPA blog column.
According to him, “as laughable as these fraudulent advance-fee emails and letters may seem to those of us working in investigating fraud and implementing counter measures, a shockingly high number of innocent people have still fallen victim to these crimes. The Nigerians need to be seen as taking fraud and corruption seriously in order to put this ugly chapter behind them. Those countries with vast economic potential like Nigeria have bright futures – but only if the rest of the world can feel confident doing business with them.
“If Nigeria can shake off its suspect fraud reputation — through more actions such as the recent jet seizure — it will be welcomed into the global fold to enjoy the many benefits that shift will bring.”