By Sunday Oyinloye
A British High Court judge Mrs. Justice Sara Cockerill has blocked Nigeria’s government from appealing the court’s decision last month to dismiss its $1.7Billion claim against JP Morgan, over claims the bank acted negligently by paying $875m into a bank account linked to a convicted money launderer and former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete.
The High Court said Nigeria had “no real prospect” of overturning the ruling after Nigeria sued JP Morgan for transferring millions to a company owned by Nigeria’s former oil minister Dan Etete after he was found guilty of money laundering in 2007.
Nigeria said JP Morgan missed “red flags” in transferring the funds to a bank account linked to Etete’s Malabu Oil and Gas company, as the country claimed the millions were later siphoned off to the ex-petroleum minister’s “cronies”.
The payments came in the midst of a long-running dispute over the ownership of Nigeria’s OPL 245 oilfield, after European oil majors, Eni and Shell agreed to buy the resource from the Nigerian government in 2011.
Nigeria later claimed JP Morgan had breached its “Quincecare” duties, which require it to disregard any customer instructions that might result in fraud after funds paid by Eni and Shell to the Nigerian government were transferred to an account linked to Etete’s Malabu Oil and Gas company.
It would be recalled that 137-page judgment of the Commercial Court of England and Wales in Case No CL-2017-000730 between the Federal Government of Nigeria and JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. delivered on June 14, 2022, declared that there is no evidence of fraud in the OPL 245 transaction.
OPL 245 was awarded to Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd in 1998 by the military government of Gen Sani Abacha. It was revoked by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001, following which Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd went to court to challenge the action. In 2006, the administration of President Obasanjo opted for an Out-of-Court Settlement and returned OPL 245 to Malabu 100 per cent.