Nigerian police recover stolen state oil funds

A Nigerian police investigation has retrieved hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen state oil funds. It came as an Italian court sentenced two men to four years in jail in a case involving Eni and Shell in Nigeria.

Nigerian police on Thursday said they had recovered $470.5 million (€400 million) in state oil company funds that had been siphoned off into private bank accounts.

Police said they discovered the money linked to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) business unit during a nationwide exercise to recover stolen funds.

Authorities found a total of “$470,519,889.10 belonging to NNPC Brass/LNG Investment hidden in some commercial banks after the directives of the federal government on Treasure Single Account,” police spokesman Jimoh Moshood told Reuters news agency in an emailed statement.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who won the 2015 election campaigning on anti-corruption, had ordered government revenues to be placed in a Treasury Single Account (TSA) at the central bank as part of an anti-corruption drive. Money recovered from suspected graft was also to be put in the account.

A key industry

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest crude oil producer and has one of the continent’s largest economies. About 83 percent of its export earnings come from petroleum sales.

In early 2017 the country came out of its first recession in 25 years, which was largely a result of low oil prices.

A number of reports in recent years have suggested mismanagement and corruption in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry cost the West African nation billions of dollars annually.

Moshood did not reveal if any arrests had been made in connection with the diverted funds.

Two sentenced in Eni, Shell case

Meanwhile, an Italian court on Thursday sentenced two men to four years in prison in the first ruling of a corruption case involving oil giants Eni and Shell in Nigeria, a judicial source told French news agency AFP.

The main trial of Eni and Shell for corruption started in Milan in the spring, and both oil companies deny the charges.

Italian magistrates suspect the two oil groups used bribes to obtain rights in 2011 to OPL245, an offshore oil block estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of crude oil, for $1.3 billion.

Of that number, $1.092 billion is believed to represent bribes paid to a London bank account that were redirected to various Nigerian politicians, including former Petroleum Minister Dan Etete. The Nigerian government received only $210 million.

 

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