FOUR international anti-corruption non-governmental organisations have charged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to seize a $56million private jet allegedly belonging to Dan Etete, Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum Resources, who is the main actor in the Malabu oil deal scandal.
This was contained in a joint petition signed by the heads of the four groups namely, Olanrewaju Suraju, Chairman, Human Resource Development Centre (HEDA); Nick Hildyard, Director, Corner House; Antonio Tricarico, Director at Re:Common, and Simon Taylor, Co-founder of Global Witness.
They said that the private jet was purchased with illicit funds relating to the fraudulent sales of the oil block, OPL 245, and therefore should be forfeited to the Nigerian government.
The controversial acquisition of OPL 245 is the main subject of the Malabu oil scandal which case is currently ongoing before a court in Milan, Italy. The petitioners said their position was further strengthened by findings from the on-going court case.
Prosecutors in Milan were told by a former Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI) agent, Debra LaPrevotte and one Alessandro Ferri, both involved in the investigations of the case, that $56 million proceeds of corruption was used by Etete for the purchase of a private jet in Oklahoma City, USA. The specific tail registration number of the aircraft was given as M-MYNA.
“What we heard from testimony in the court confirmed the information enclosed in a table produced by the FBI, and already disclosed as a public document in the court case, Crown vs Malabu Oil and Gas, which was held at Southwark Crown Court in London, UK; namely that proceeds of the OPL 245 deal were used to purchase a Bombardier Global 6000 private jet with the registration number M-MYNA,” the petitioners stated.
“This aircraft is listed as registered to Tibit Limited (BVI) and registered in the Isle of Man. The FBI table notes that the aircraft purchase was made from Insured Aircraft Title Services, Oklahoma City, US.
“We note that the company appeared in a 2010 investigation by the US Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations, regarding their role in the purchase of aircraft by PEPs (Politically Exposed Persons)”
They added that the individuals connected to Tibit Ltd, a BVI company involved in selling several Bombardier 6000 jets, have been the subject of a court case with the Australian Tax Office, adding that the report related to the Panama Papers has also raised questions about the bombardier sales.
The petition also noted that the aircraft’s most recent flight, according to public aircraft tracking websites, was from Paris to Dubai airport on the 7th June 2017. The aircraft appears to have remained in Dubai since then.
It said that there is therefore reason to believe that the jet is still in Dubai airport and could be frozen by competent authorities as possible proceeds of crime.
“We kindly urge you to verify this information and take appropriate steps, including asset freezing and forfeiture, where possible, under the 2018 Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between Nigeria and United Arab Emirate,” the petitioners prayed the EFCC.
Etete is the owner of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, the company that purchased OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s most promising oil blocks, in 1998, paying a paltry $2 million dollars out of the $20 million discounted signature bonus.
The deal, which was part of an indigenisation policy of the Sani Abacha regime, was later annulled by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, and OPL 245 was sold to Shell, leading to a series of legal actions. Eventually, OPL245 was returned to Malabu.
In 2017, however, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) resurrected the issue and filed a case before the court asking that OPL245 should be returned to the federal government.
Two persons have already been convicted and jailed in the Milan court in connection with the Malabu scandal.