OPL 245: UK court rules Nigeria lawsuit against JP Morgan will go to trial
A London high court has ruled that Nigeria’s $1.7 billion lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase for its role in the oil prospecting license (OPL) 245 deal will go to trial.
According to Reuters reports, the trial, scheduled to hold for six weeks, will start on the first available date after November 1, 2021, however, proceedings may not begin until 2022.
The lawsuit, filed in 2017, relates to the purchase of OPL 245 oilfield in Nigeria by Royal Dutch Shell and Eni in 2011, which is the subject of an ongoing trial in Milan.
The case is central to a $1.3 billion payment from Shell and Eni to secure the offshore oilfield license that was deposited into a Nigerian government escrow account managed by JP Morgan.
As part of the proceedings, JP Morgan will have to disclose within 21 days which individuals at the bank made the final decision to transfer the funds in question.
A spokesman for the federal government was quoted to have said: “Nigeria is pleased that JP Morgan has agreed it will now confirm all the senior figures at the bank who were involved”.
“This claim will move forward and Nigeria will hold JP Morgan accountable for its central role in the OPL 245 fraud.”
Nigeria alleges JP Morgan was negligent for transferring about $800 million in escrow to Malabu Oil and Gas owned by Dan Etete, former minister of petroleum resources.
The damages sought include the monies allegedly sent to Etete, around $875 million paid out in three installments, plus interest taking the total to $1.7 billion.
The main trial started in Milan in May 2018.
Claudio Descalzi, Eni CEO; Malcolm Brinded, former Shell exploration chief; and 11 other defendants, including the two oil companies (Eni and Shell), were accused by Italian prosecutors of paying bribes to secure OPL 245.
The prosecutors requested Eni and Shell be fined $1.06 million each and sought to confiscate $1.092 billion from all the defendants in the case, the equivalent of the bribes alleged to have been paid.
However, the oil companies and their managers have denied any wrongdoing.
Lawyers representing Eni, Shell, and the accused executives are due to make their final defense arguments in Milan on November 25, 2020.
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