$11bn trial: FG raises fresh claims against P&ID
The Federal Government of Nigeria has leveled fresh claims of fraud against an offshore firm, Process and Industrial Developments, which earlier won an $11 billion arbitration award against the country, ramping up the pressure ahead of one of the biggest London trials to take place next year, Bloomberg reports.
The federal government would seek to prove to the court that P&ID did not make full disclosure to the court in the first place in the course of the case.
As it attempts to show the court that the contract was corruptly procured, it would also urge the firm in the eye of the storm to answer the following questions: “Did P&ID, or any individual or company associated with P&ID, make, procure to be made by any other person, or promise to make payments to or on behalf of various Nigerian officials, including one Ms. Taiga, Mr. Tijani, Mr. Dikko, Mr. Rilwanu Lukman or Mr. Ibrahim?
“Did P&ID collude with and/or communicate with and/or enter into a corrupt agreement with and/or make payments to Mr. Shasore and/or any other person directly or indirectly involved in the FRN’s defence (including Ms Adelore and Mr Oguine), before, during or after the arbitration, with a view to influencing the conduct of the FRN’s defence in the arbitration?
“In what circumstances did the FRN engage Mr Shasore (and/or his firm) in respect of the arbitration? Did Mr Shasore conduct the arbitration in a manner contrary to Nigeria’s interests and/or instructions, and if so, why?”
“Did P&ID induce Ms Taiga or any other Nigerian official to depart from the terms of the FRN’s model arbitration clause in the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement?” according to the court filing.
An update on the legal tussle also showed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has succeeded in its bid at the London High Court to obtain further documentation supporting its efforts to set aside the $11 billion arbitration award.
In the recent hearing, Mr. Justice Jacobs judged that the approach taken by P&ID to providing disclosure of WhatsApp/SMS messages had not been entirely satisfactory to date.
As such, it would be reasonable and proportionate for P&ID to disclose further information related to private WhatsApp/SMS messages sent between key figures associated with the company for several years. Nigeria’s government hoped that disclosure of the messages would further reveal the questionable activities of the company ahead of the High Court trial due to begin in January 2023.
A spokesperson for the Federal Republic of Nigeria who pleaded to remain anonymous was quoted to have said, “The Federal Republic of Nigeria remains dedicated to overturning arbitral award of around $11 billion and is leaving no stone unturned in its fight through the courts.
“This is another step in our long-running effort to reveal who stands to benefit from one of the world’s largest scams. Today’s judgment will help us have greater access to messages sent between the senior figures associated with P&ID which is vital ahead of the trial which will begin in the High Court in January 2023.”
P&ID founded by the late Michael Quinn and Brendan Cahill, the lawyers told the court, had no intention to perform any obligation concerning the purported contract, the reason the company went about bribing Nigerian government officials at the time.
The company had taken legal action against Nigeria for alleged breach of contract, with a panel of three arbitrators voting 2-1 to award P & ID the full sum of its claim of $6.6 billion at the time, plus interest, which spiked the arbitration value to about $9.6 billion.
In January 2010, Nigeria allegedly signed the gas-processing project, but two years later, the company began an arbitration process, alleging breach of contract.
In July 2015, a London tribunal gave judgement in favour of the company and in January 2017, gave the final award of $6.6 billion, with an interest rate of seven per cent, pre and post judgement.
Citing fraud, the federal government ordered an investigation in January by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and requested a hearing to present evidence that the so-called deal was a fraud.
The project started under the petroleum minister at the time, Mr. Rilwanu Lukman, who died in 2014, whom the Nigerian legal representative said yesterday spearheaded the alleged fraud.
The federal government told the judge that Lukman and several government officials knew the agreement was a sham and stood to make financial gains.
A tribunal granted the company the damages in early 2017 after finding that the government had breached the original agreement.
According to Bloomberg, P&ID didn’t respond to a request for comments but had repeatedly denied the allegations. It insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government concocted the claims to avoid its legal obligation to compensate the British Virgin Islands-registered company.
The potentially costly crisis for Nigeria stems from a deal struck in 2010, where the government agreed to provide gas to a plant P&ID proposed to build.
Buhari’s administration now argues the project was a “sham” from the outset designed by the company and corrupt public officials to engineer the successful arbitration claim that a tribunal delivered more than five years ago.
The government introduced the fraud allegations after a UK judge ruled in August 2019 that P&ID could enforce the award, which has increased with interest from an initial $6.6 billion.
Nigeria discovered late last year that P&ID was “in possession of numerous documents which might be privileged and confidential” to the government, it said in documents prepared for a London court hearing last month.”
While the “full details” of how P&ID obtained the documents “remain obscured,” it was to be “inferred” they were provided to the company by a former legal director at the petroleum resources ministry and “other corrupted individuals” acting on behalf of the government, Nigeria claimed.
Granting Nigeria permission to proceed to a full trial, Judge Cranston had said in September 2020 that the government had established a strong case that the contract was “procured by bribes” and the arbitration was “tainted.”
There is “a possibility” that Olasupo Shasore, the state’s lawyer during most of the arbitration, was “corrupted,” he had said.