Facts have emerged in the multi-million Malabu OPL 245 scandal of how a Nigerian oil magnet Abubakar Aliyu allegedly withdrew a whooping N24 billion ($60,593,000) in cash.
Aliyu, an ally of former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete and owner of the popular A.A Oil, is charged alongside former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), over alleged complicity in the Malabu fraud.
The revelation was made during a proceeding in a Milan court in 2018, prosecution said the withdrawal took place as soon as Malabu Oil and Gas received $801million of its $1.1billion from Shell and Eni (through the Nigerian government), Etete, transferred half the funds to Nigerian companies controlled by or associated with Aliyu in suspicious circumstances.
Specifically, a transcript of the Milan court proceedings, Aliyu made the huge withdrawal from the funds transferred to him by Etete.
Prosecution alleged that portions of the fund were used to bribe some officials of the Goodluck Jonathan government, an allegation Aliyu has since denied.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had in March 2017, filed charges against him, along with Adoke and Etete, over alleged involvement in the $1.1 billion Malabu Oil scandal.
The anti-corruption agency is prosecuting them alongside two international oil giants – Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company, and ENI, as well as Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd, Rocky Top Resources Ltd, Imperial Union Ltd, Novel Properties & Dev. Co. Ltd, A Group Construction Ltd, and Megatech Engineering Ltd.
However, Adoke has denied any wrongdoing and said the actions taken in respect of the transfer of the bloc were based on the instructions of former President Jonathan and in the best interest of Nigeria.
In January 2020, the EFCC arraigned Messrs Aliyu and Adoke on charges relating to money laundering and exchange of alleged N300 million bribe.
They were, however, granted bail in February by Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on same terms and conditions earlier granted by Justice Idris Kutigi of the FCT High Court in Gwagwalada.
The Malabu scandal involved the 2011 payment of $1.1billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to Malabu for the takeover of a lucrative oil asset, OPL 245.
From accounts controlled by Mr Etete, about half of the $801million initially transferred to Malabu was moved into accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu, suspected to have fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well as officials of Shell and ENI, charges he strongly denies.
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.
“The accounts,” prosecutors alleged while interrogating a witness during the Milan hearing, “are aligned to Rocky Top (Resources Limited) level in the scheme. I would ask you a few questions, but it seems to me you were saying at the beginning that the signing powers on these accounts had Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar.”
The witness, one Ferri Alesandro, replied: “Yes, exactly.” For emphasis, the prosecutor asked yet again: “So these are movements arranged by Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar?” The witness replied in the affirmative.
“So, some details, let’s start looking at the outputs from AE Group,” the prosecutor continued. “There is an annotation $ 60,593,000, Aliyu Abubaker cash withdrawal. I believe there are not many precedents for cash withdrawals of this size. The question is: is it a single withdrawal or multiple withdrawals?
The witness, Mr Alessandro, replied: “As can be seen from sheet 142, from the documentation … and from card and the documentation below, are more withdrawals of the amount, some also of $5 million.”
Alessandro explained that the sum of $5 million withdrawal was also made simultaneously “in a single solution”.
“Because if you go to see the documentation that is attached to the sheet 142 there are lists where the abbreviation of Abubakar Aliyu appears,” the witness continued, apparently reading from the banking records of Aliyu and those of his companies.
“As I said on the basis of the opening accounts, he was the only one who had access to those figures, for which there are receipts, I do not know how … signed by him, with the indication of the withdrawal, the indication of the number and its abbreviation, which is similar, equal to the one deposited in the moment… at the bank when they opened the account.”
The prosecutors did not name the Nigerian banks from which Aliyu made the withdrawals.
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The withdrawal of such amount of cash is a violation of Nigeria’s anti-money laundering law which forbids individuals from accepting cash payments exceeding N500,000 or its equivalent. Corporate bodies are also not allowed to make or accept cash payment exceeding N2million.
But in his statement to the EFCC, Aliyu said the transactions he made were payments to companies and individuals on the directives of Etete, payment for properties he sold to Etete in Nigeria and Dubai and the consultancy fee he received for his role in facilitating the controversial settlement agreement between Malabu and Shell/Eni.
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