Nigeria case against JP Morgan over OPL 245 oil deal to go to trial

In this news, we discuss the Nigeria case against JP Morgan over OPL 245 oil deal to go to trial.

LONDON (Reuters) – A lawsuit launched by the Nigerian government against US bank JP Morgan Chase claiming more than $ 1.7 billion for its role in a controversial 2011 oilfield deal will stand trial, the High Court of London.

The lawsuit filed in English courts in 2017 concerns the purchase of the OPL 245 offshore oil field in Nigeria by oil majors Royal Dutch Shell and Eni in 2011, which is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in Milan.

The six-week trial in London will begin on the earliest available date after November 1 next year, which means proceedings cannot begin until 2022.

JP Morgan declined to comment.

At the heart of the case is a $ 1.3 billion payment from Shell and Eni to secure the block which was deposited in a Nigerian government escrow account managed by JP Morgan.

As part of the procedure, JP Morgan will also have to disclose within 21 days the persons in the bank who made the final decision to transfer the funds in question.

“Nigeria is pleased that JP Morgan has now agreed to confirm all senior bank officials who were involved,” said a Nigerian government spokesperson on the matter.

“This claim will go forward and Nigeria will hold JP Morgan accountable for its central role in the OPL 245 fraud.”

In the complaint, Nigeria alleges that JP Morgan was negligent in its decision to transfer the funds in escrow to a company controlled by the country’s former petroleum minister, Dan Etete, instead of government coffers.

The damages claimed include the money allegedly sent to Etete, approximately $ 875 million paid in three installments, plus interest bringing the total to $ 1.7 billion.

The decision is also likely to force the bank to disclose details of its internal processes. JP Morgan sought to quash the case last year.

The Milan trial began in 2018. In July 2020, Italian prosecutors asked a court in Milan that Eni and Shell be fined and that some of their current and former executives, including Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, be imprisoned.

They further asked Eni and Shell to be fined 900,000 euros ($ 1.06 million) each and sought to confiscate a total of $ 1.092 billion from all defendants in the case, the equivalent of the bribes that would have been paid.

The final defense arguments of the lawyers representing Shell, Eni and its executives are presented in court. The next hearing is scheduled for November 25.

A full timeline of the legal affairs surrounding the oilfield deal can be found here:

(1 USD = 0.8481 euros)

Reporting by Julia Payne; edited by Barbara Lewis

Original © Thomson Reuters

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