A London Court has ruled in favour of JP Morgan Chase Bank over Nigeria’s over the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 in the controversial Malabu oil deal amounting to $1.7 Billion.
Judge Sara Cockerill ruled Tuesday that the Nigerian government was unable to substantiate that it had been defrauded by JP Morgan Chase Bank.
Nigeria claimed JP Morgan was “grossly negligent” in its decision to transfer funds paid by oil giants Shell and Eni into an escrow account controlled by a former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete; and this amounted to more than $1.7 billion.
Nigerian lawyer, Roger Masefield in February argued that the nation’s case rested on proving that there was fraud and JP Morgan was aware of the risk of fraud.
“The evidence of fraud is little short of overwhelming,” the lawyer told the court.
“Under its Quincecare duty, the bank was entitled to refuse to pay for as long as it had reasonable grounds for believing its customer was being defrauded.”
Quincecare is a legal precedent whereby the bank should not pay out if it believes its client will be defrauded by making the payment.
Judge Cockerill said Tuesday that by the time of the 2013 payments, the bank was “on notice of a risk” of fraud.
“There was a risk – but it was, on the evidence, no more than a possibility based on a slim foundation,” the judge ruled. The ruling was published today.
“This judgment reflects our commitment to acting with high professional standards in every country we operate in, and how we are prepared to robustly defend our actions and reputation when they are called into question,” a spokesman for the bank said.
Late military Head of State Sani Abacha had awarded licence OPL 245 to a company Etete owned in 1998. The damages sought around $875 million paid in three instalments in 2011 and 2013 sent to Etete’s company Malabu Oil and Gas. It also includes interest, taking the total to over $1.7 billion.
Subsequent Nigerian administrations had challenged Etete’s rights to the field over many years until a deal to resolve the impasse through a sale to Shell and Eni was struck in 2011.
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