OPL 245: italian prosecutors want JPMorgan documents admitted as evidence

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 Mordi chukwunonso Esther 

Italian prosecutors have asked a Milan court for documents sourced from JP Morgan Chase, a United States investment bank, to be filed as part of a corruption trial over the acquisition of OPL 245 in Nigeria by two oil giants — Eni and Shell.

The long-running graft case revolves around the purchase of the Oil Prospecting Licence 245 in 2011 for about $1.3bn by Royal Dutch Shell and Zeno from Malibu Oil and Gas. Prosecutors allege that about $1.1bn of that was siphoned off to politicians and middlemen.

According to Reuters, the prosecutors asked the Milan court on Wednesday to accept two emails sent to Italy by UK authorities.

The two emails originate from a separate London court case launched by the federal government against the US bank, claiming over $1.7 billion for its role in the OPL 245 deal.

Reuters said the first email was sent by Mohammed Adoke, former attorney general, to JPMorgan through the email address of a company owned by Aliyu Abubakar, whom prosecutors allege was paid $500 million in cash as part of a bribe.

In the first email, Adoke sent the bank copies of the resolution agreement regarding the oilfield acquisition.

The prosecutors said they considered it relevant to establish the relationship between Adoke and Abubakar.

The news agency further said the second email is between two JPMorgan officials expressing doubts about transferring $1.1 billion to two accounts at Nigerian banks.

Milan magistrates said they considered the email significant as it shows there were doubts within the bank over the transfer, which a Swiss and a Lebanese lender had previously refused to carry out.

The Milan court said it will decide on February 3, 2021 whether to admit the two documents in the case.

Meanwhile, Adoke was charged in 2020 for allegedly receiving bribes to facilitate the OPL 245 deal, and he pleaded not guilty to all charges. Abubakar, whose trial starts in coming weeks in Milan, also denied any wrongdoings.

Similarly, the companies and defendants involved in the Milan case, including Claudio Descalzi, Eni’s current CEO, have all denied any wrongdoing.

Milan prosecutors have asked for jail sentences for all the defendants and fines for both Eni and Shell.

At the public hearing, lawyers for Eni and Shell asked for the companies to be acquitted, however, the verdict is expected at the end of March 2021.

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