OPL 212: EFCC seeks to confiscate $24 million awarded to firm for alleged fraud
ON Friday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, filed fresh charges against six suspects involved in an alleged criminal conspiracy that led to the contract award of SNEPCO Bonga Field Development Project in Oil Prospecting License, OPL, 212 to BCE Consulting Engineers according to a report.
The suspects who are to be arraigned before the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos are being charged for alleged fraud, tax evasion, theft, forgery and money laundering.
The suspects involved in the lawsuit include BCE Consultant Engineering, BCE Consulting Engineers Limited, BCE Consulting Engineers Limited, Akinola Ogunlewe, former permanent Secretary during the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Abolaji Ogunlewe and Babajide Soyede both former employees of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, who incorporated BCE Consulting Engineers.
The ICIR had earlier reported that the Supreme Court in its judgement in July had directed the NNPC to pay BCE Consulting Engineers the sum of US$22,630,000 as damages for the illegal cancellation of a contract awarded to the firm in 1999.
The Federal Government and NNPC had sought the review of July 5, 2019, Supreme Court judgment by a panel, headed by Justice Mary Odili, over an alleged error of facts.
The NNPC claims there was no bid process for the contract and the National Petroleum Investment Management Services, NAPIMS, were compelled to award it.
They also alleged that the contract was hurriedly awarded to BCE nine days before ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office which the Supreme Court did not take into account in its earlier judgement.
In a twist of events, the EFCC has moved to freeze $24,006,431.85 in the custody of the Registrar of the Court of Appeal yet to be paid to the firm after the initial Supreme Court award of $22,630,000 which they claimed had “strangely” incurred interest of $1,376,431.85.
However, the EFCC seeks a court order that “the bank account listed in the schedule hereto, held for the benefit of the 1st and 2nd respondents, currently being investigated for the fraud, tax evasion, offences of conspiracy, theft forgery and money laundering be temporarily attached and taken over by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission pending the conclusion of investigation and consequent prosecution of the offences described aforesaid.
”That all dealings and transactions in the aforesaid bank account and the funds therein, held for the benefit of the 1st, and 2nd respondents, currently being investigated for offences of fraud, tax evasion, conspiracy, theft, forgery and money laundering be suspended and some temporarily vested in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, pending the conclusion of investigation and consequent prosecution of these offences against them,” the court document reads.