FG assigns Malabu, Halliburton $1.280bn scam cases to special prosecutors

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The Federal Government has asked some lawyers in its teams of special prosecutors to review the multi-billion naira Halliburton and Malabu scams.

It was learnt that the move was part of the Federal Government’s renewed zeal to re-open the cases.

The teams of prosecutors, sources confirmed to our correspondent on Wednesday, were expected to review the cases and advise the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, on the way forward on the cases.

One of the sources said, “There are basic things expected from the prosecutors.

“The lawyers may advise that investigation should start afresh on both cases. They may recommend further investigations to fill in the gaps.

“They may even advise the AGF that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the suspects named in the cases and recommend the appropriate charges against them.

“I cannot tell when the group of lawyers will be through with their review but I can assure you that work is going on it.”

The Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, had said at a press conference on Monday that PACAC had intervened in resuscitating some otherwise dead high-profile corruption cases such as the Halliburton and Malabu scams.

“Malabu, Halliburton, and other cases are not going to die. We have given advisory and they will be reopened,” Owasanoye said.

He, however, cited low budgetary allocation as factor militating against investigation and filing of fresh charges with respect to high-profile corruption cases such as the Halliburton and Malabu scams.

But a member of the National Prosecution Coordination Committee, in which Owasanoye is a member, said assigning the cases to the lawyers for review was the first step taken after the PACAC’s intervention.

“The cases involve various ministries and agencies of government.

“So the lawyers will first have to fetch the files and other pieces of information from the various government bodies in order for them to make informed recommendation to the AGF,” the source said.

The prosecution coordination committee was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier this year to monitor, coordinate and make recommendations to the AGF on fresh and ongoing high-profile corruption cases.

The NPCC, working in sync with the Prof. Itse Sagay-led PACAC, had pooled together 80 special prosecutors grouped into 20 teams to handle the high-profile corruption cases.

The special prosecutors, comprising mainly private legal practitioners and a lawyer from the Federal Ministry of Justice on each team, were trained by the Sagay-led committee.

When contacted on Wednesday, AGF’s spokesperson, Mr. Salihu Isah, said he had no comment to make on the cases.

The Halliburton scam involved alleged payment of over $180m bribe to senior Nigerian officials, including past heads of state, by officials of an American firm, Halliburton, to secure a construction contract for a liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny Island in the Niger Delta.

The American government had since prosecuted and punished its citizens involved in the scam, but no Nigerian had been charged in respect to the case.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had this year queried some Senior Advocates of Nigeria on their roles in receiving about $26m from Halliburton.

Some of the lawyers were said to have received $4.5m through their law firms from multinational companies involved in the deal, purportedly as legal fees.

One of the lawyers was said to have withdrawn over $2m cash for unclear purposes and in violation of Nigerian laws.

The Malabu Oil scam involved alleged payment of about $1.1bn to Malabu Oil and Gas for alleged fraudulent procurement of one of Nigeria’s richest oil fields, Oil Prospecting Licence 245 by some foreign companies.

More than half of the money was allegedly used to bribe Nigerian politicians and middlemen involved in securing the deal.

PUNCH


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