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Nigeria may withdraw forgery case against Suraju to boost $1.7bn demand from JP Morgan

Nigeria may withdraw forgery case against Suraju to boost $1.7bn demand from JP Morgan
April 12
14:04 2022

The federal government has hinted at halting the forgery trial of Olanrewaju Suraju, anti-corruption activist, in order to boost its chances of winning the $1.7 billion lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase Bank in a UK court.

Nigeria is seeking the award against the bank for allegedly failing in its Quincecare duty when it transferred $810 million to Malabu Oil & Gas Limited from the sale of OPL 245 to Shell and Eni in 2011.

The government argued that the bank ought to have known that  it was “a corrupt and fraudulent scheme” and should have withheld the payment.

JP Morgan denied the liability claims, maintaining that the government has not yet proved allegations of corruption in any court of law over 10 years when the payments were made.

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The government specifically sought to accuse Mohammed Bello Adoke of corruption — an allegation the attorney-general when the OPL 245 resolutions were reached in 2011 has always denied.

As proof of alleged complicity to defraud Nigeria, the country’s lawyers presented an email said to have been sent to a JP Morgan official by Adoke through the account of a property company that was also allegedly involved in the alleged fraud.

The tape of a radio interview with an Italian journalist, in which a man posing as Adoke said he knew OPL 245 was a “presidential scam”, emerged in 2017.

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Adoke denied both the email and the interview tape, alleging that they were fabricated to implicate him in the OPL 245 trial in Italy.

After police investigation, Suraju, chairman of HEDA Resource Centre, was indicted and charged to court by the office of the attorney-general of the federation.

However, the charges around forgery of email were dropped after Nigeria’s lawyers pointed out to the attorney-general that it could jeopardise the case against JP Morgan since the government was relying on the same email.

Suraju was eventually arraigned over the charges around the allegedly stage-managed interview alone, but the lawyers have now informed the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court that the case against the activist will be halted.

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‘CASE TO BE WITHDRAWN’

“The charges against Mr Suraju in respect of the A Group Properties email were withdrawn at a hearing on 18 February 2022,” the lawyers said.

“While the charges concerning the Carla Maria Rumor interview were not withdrawn at that hearing, it is understood that they will also be withdrawn.”

Suraju was arraigned by the federal government on February 18, 2022 before a federal high court sitting in Abuja, and the court adjourned till May 10.

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The lawyers said Adoke’s “baseless allegations” about the veracity of the email and the interview led to the arraignment of Suraju in the first place and “it appears that the police and prosecutors were not aware of the evidence in the present proceedings that discredits Mr Adoke’s complaint and shows these to be true documents”.

They said although the judgment of the Milan Court acquitting the Shell and Eni defendants “does not refer to the interview, it is referred to in the judgment of Judge Barbara in the fast-track proceedings against Messrs (Emeka) Obi and (Gianluca) Di Nardo”.

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Both Obi and Nardo were initially found guilty of collecting kickbacks in the OPL 245 deal and jailed for four years but after the Court of Milan discharged Shell and Others, the Italian Court of Appeal overturned the jail sentences and set them free.

The Italian prosecutors were also investigated for allegedly manipulating evidence in order to secure conviction.

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Adoke, who was not on trial in Italy, has always maintained that the email and the interview were forged to implicate him.

He said he could not have used another’s person email address and that he was no longer attorney-general when the email was sent.

Adoke also noted the email was signed off without his SAN title which he said he always used in all his correspondences.

The former attorney-general also said the voice in the interview was not his and requested a forensic evidence to verify his rebuttal.

He is not a party to the UK court, which case closed on April 7 .

Judgment is expected later in the year.

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