The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been urged to seize a private jet owned by a former Nigerian minister of petroleum, Dan Etete.
Four international anti-corruption crusaders made the appeal Thursday in a joint petition sent from Italy calling for the retrieval and forfeiture of the jet by the Nigerian government.
The crusaders include the Chairman, Human Resource Development Centre (HEDA), Olanrewaju Suraju; Corner House Director, Nick Hildyard; Re:Common Director, Antonio Tricarico; and the Co-founder of Global witness, Simon Taylor. The anti-corruption crusaders attended court proceedings surrounding the controversial oil block in Milan recently.
According to the global corruption crusaders, the private jet owned by Etete was purchased with illicit funds. The jet is said to be worth $56 million as at the time it was purchased.
The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by oil multinationals, Shell and ENI, through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by Etete.
From accounts controlled by Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to accounts of companies controlled by Abubakar Aliyu, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil.
Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well of officials of Shell and ENI.
The transaction was authorised in 2011 by Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.
Although Shell and ENI initially claimed they did not know the money would end up with Etete and his cronies, evidence has shown that claim to be false.
Shell, Eni, Etete, Aliyu and several officials of the oil firms are being prosecuted in Italy for their roles in the scandal.
Last June, newsmen reported how Etete acquired luxury properties in Dubai with funds believed to have been sourced from the controversial deal.
This newspaper’s London partner, Finance Uncovered, found evidence suggesting that Etete bought two luxury properties in Dubai after he received more than $800 million from the deal he made with Shell and Eni.
One property is in the exclusive Emirates Hills, known as the “Beverly Hills of Dubai” – the postcode of choice for a host of notorious former presidents, including Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
The link to OPL245 was established by an email address found in the property records and that was also in other files seen by Finance Uncovered in a separate investigation into Etete last year.
A business associate of Etete in Dubai also told Finance Uncovered that the former minister had brought millions into the Emirate via an informal money changer.
According to the new petition addressed to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC by Suraju and other anti-corruption crusaders, Etete’s jet was purchased with proceeds of corruption relating to the fraudulent sales of OPL 245. The crusaders added that their position was strengthened by findings from the on-going international corruption case taking place at the Milan Court.
Prosecutors in Milan were told by a former Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI) agent, Debra LaPrevotte and Ten. Col. Alessandro Ferri, both involved in the investigations of the case, that $56 million of 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,” they 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.”
The petitioners 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. They added that the report related to the Panama Papers has also raised questions about the bombardier sales.
The petition stated 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 ever since, the petition said, adding that it 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 said.
Last week, a lecturer at the University of Lagos, Dayo Ayoade, told an Italian Court in Milan that the award of the controversial Malabu Oil Block (OPL 245) to Shell and ENI was illegal.
Ayoade, a consultant hired by Italian prosecutors who also teaches oil law in UNILAG, spoke at the resumption of the long running case involving the two oil giants.