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Italian court accepts new evidence in OPL 245 trial

Italian court accepts new evidence in OPL 245 trial
February 04
11:03 2021

A Milan court on Wednesday admitted a new evidence in the ongoing trial of Eni, Shell and some officials of the companies in the controversial $1.3 billion OPL 245 deal.

According to a press statement by Olanrewaju Suraju, chairman of HEDA Resource Centre which is the coalition of NGOs monitoring the trial, the court accepted emails allegedly sent by Mohammed Bello Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation, through an email address of AGroupProperties, said to be owned by Aliyu Abubakar, who is also on trial for allegedly facilitating payment of bribes.

This, Suraju said, was to establish a relationship between Adoke and Abubakar.

However, Adoke, in a statement by his lawyers, has described the email as “forged”, saying he was no longer minister as of the date on the email and that he could never have used another person’s email account to send a correspondence when he has his own.

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Milan public prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale said: “Internal email of senior compliance officer at JPMorgan denies Eni’s claim that the bank got a green light for the transfer of OPL245 money by SOCA, the UK financial intelligence authority preventing money laundering.”

The prosecutor said Adoke shared with JPMorgan an unofficial copy of the resolutions agreements of OPL245 then signed by the federal government with Eni and Shell and Malabu of Dan Etete, suggesting that Abubakar knew much about negotiations on the deal “because Mr. Adoke regularly informed him”.

Suraju said Italy’s system of independent magistrates “sets it at the forefront of international fight against corruption”, adding that unlike some other jurisdictions, “Italian magistrates have prosecuted the OPL 245 case without fear or favour.”

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The statement below was issued by Adoke’s lawyer in response to the new development in Milan.

The attention of our client Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has been drawn to the decision of the Milan Court on Wednesday to accept as “new evidence” an email purportedly sent by our client from the email address of AgroupProperties, said to belong to Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, in respect of the OPL 245 transaction of 2011. According to the campaigners, this is the “proof” that our client had a close relationship with Alhaji Abubakar, who is on trial in Milan along with Shell and ENI in the Milan Court.

Our client states categorically that the e-mail (copy enclosed) is a total forgery. First of all, the email is dated 21 June 2011. At the time in question, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN was no longer the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minster of Justice. The cabinet had been dissolved by President Goodluck Jonathan and was yet to be re-constituted. The despicable forgers did not do their due diligence before going to town. That is their stock in trade, in any case.

Secondly, and curiously, in a screenshot of the email being circulated as “new evidence” by Olanrewaju Suraju, who is leading the Nigerian axis of the failed campaign to criminalise and defame Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN, the sender signed off simply as “Mohammed Bello Adoke”. For the record, all our client’s correspondences, whether physical or electronic, are signed off with the suffix “SAN”. At no time did our client sign off any document without using his rank in the legal profession.

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Furthermore, our client would want to point out that he could never have sent an email from another person’s account and signed off with his name. This is completely illogical. Our client has an e-mail account for his personal and for his official matters. Therefore, it is completely non-sensical to expect our client to use another person’s email address. Moreover, our client while in office, had at least five aides working with him, and could have sent an email on his behalf assuming that Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN was busy, or had issues with his email account.

In our client’s view, the poor work of forgery exhibited in the email admitted by the court, is not the first. This is the second time the desperate campaigners are forging “evidence” against our client. In 2017, they came up with a fictitious “recorded” phone conversation which Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN was alleged to have had with one Ms Carlamaria Rumor, said to be of RAI Television in Italy. In it, our client was alleged to have told the reporter that he knew the OPL 245 transaction was a presidential scam.

Those who want to keep collecting huge grants from international donors under the pretext of fighting corruption should continue to do so but they should leave our client’s name out of it. As long as they continue to lie against Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN, we will continue resist every attempt to denigrate our client. At the right time, they will pay dearly for their evil machinations because our client intends to institute legal actions against them home and abroad.

Femi Oboro, Gromyko Amedu Solicitors

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