‘Stolen crude’: N47. 6b fraud averted at NNPC, says Afe Babalola
The Federal Government would have lost about $125 million (N47.6 billion) to an international crime syndicate thanks to due diligence at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Afe Babalola & Co stated yesterday.
The law firm said in a release that there was a failed attempt by an international crime syndicate to intimidate, extort and defraud the NNPC and the Federal Government, adding that recent media publications alleging that Nigerian government officials, NNPC staff, sold 48 million barrels of stolen crude oil, was sponsored by a company, SAMANO SA DE CV, which was linked to the crime.
Acting as counsel to the NNPC, the law firm said: “The management of the Corporation states emphatically that these publications are replete with falsehoods, offensive, gold-digging and a calculated attempt by the said SAMANO SA DE CV (SAMANO) working in concert with its local and international agents to intimidate, blackmail and extort money from the Federal Government of Nigeria and NNPC.”
The chamber said Samano first contacted officials of the Federal Government in 2015 indicating that it had been approached by an unnamed group in the People’s Republic of China to buy 48 million barrels of Nigerian crude oil, which they believed to have been stolen from Nigeria.
It narrated further that the Samano had indicated that the crude was stolen and shipped to China before the inception of President Buhari’s administration in 2015, adding that the company requested that it be allowed to purchase the stolen crude after its recovery by the Federal Government.
“Shortly thereafter, Samano indicated that it was not interested in buying the said stolen crude as it only obliged the Federal Government with the information to assist the President Buhari-led administration’s fight against corruption.
“Federal Government and NNPC receive hundreds of spurious claims of this nature daily, and they always turn out to be false. NNPC also believed that based on the operations and state of the international crude oil market in 2015, it was impossible to ship 48 million barrels of crude oil from Nigeria to China without any record or trace of same.
“For context, as of 2015, the daily production of crude oil in Nigeria was below 1.6 million barrels. Therefore, 48 million barrels of crude oil would have been the total production capacity of the country for a whole month. It was and remains simply impossible for one-month crude oil production for the entire country to disappear without any record or trace from the shores of the country,” the release read in part.
The Afe Babalola firm also noted that the Federal Government had set up a Presidential Committee on Recovery of Stolen Nigerian Crude Oil in response to the claims made by several companies including Samano, disclosing the committee had requested that Samano furnish it with evidence in proof of its allegations to enable it to investigate and verify its claim, but the company allegedly refused, neglected or failed to provide the committee with any cogent and verifiable evidence in support of its allegations.
“Notwithstanding the failure of Samano to produce verifiable evidence in support of its allegations, for completeness, relevant officials were mandated to pay an in-person visit to China and further investigate Samano’s claim.
“During this fact-finding trip to China, it was discovered that Samano’s claim was false as there were no 48 million barrels of stolen Nigerian crude oil or any stolen Nigerian crude oil in any port, terminal or storage facility in China. It was also discovered that all the documents previously presented by Samano in support of its claims were not genuine. A report of this finding was issued by the committee to Mr. President,” the law firm stated.
It stated that the Federal Government had terminated all communications with Samano as it became apparent that its claim was a hoax, stating that when Samano realised that the Federal Government was no longer interested in the non-existent stolen crude, it resorted to blackmail and intimidation of key officials of the government.
The chamber noted that the company made several demands including the demand that it be paid the sum of $125,000,000:00 by the government officials to prevent it from disclosing this false information to the public.”
“This demand soon metamorphosed into harassment as Samano embarked on a mischievous exercise to embarrass the Federal Government of Nigeria on international media platforms and before several international institutions like the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) all in a calculated bid to blackmail the Federal Government of Nigeria and NNPC into paying it a significant amount of money as compensation.
“As a result of the constant harassment, NNPC was constrained to make a formal report to the Department of State Security (DSS) and Nigeria Police while other victims wrote petitions in respect of the same subject to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation.
“After a thorough investigation by the Police and DSS and confessions by agents of SAMANO, it was discovered that the allegations of conspiracy, forgery, obtaining money by false pretence, blackmail and extortion were well-founded and that some of the fraudulent activities of one Mr Ramirez and Mr Jose Salazar Tinajero (both agents of SAMANO) constituted a threat to the national security of Nigeria,” the law firm stated.
It added that during its investigation, the Nigerian Police discovered that Samano was part of a notorious crime syndicate that habitually intimidates, blackmails and defrauds government officials and other high-profile persons.
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