A New York federal judge has ruled that Nigeria can subpoena 10 banks in the United States for information needed to prosecute government officials allegedly connected to a British Virgin Island engineering firm’s alleged bribery scheme and subsequent $9.6 billion arbitral claim.
According to a May 8 report in legal website law360.com, District Judge Lorna Schofield, who gave the ruling, ordered the banks to allow the Nigerian government have access to sundry account details of officials listed in its subpoena request.
The move, the judge ruled, would enable the Nigerian government prove its claim that the $9.6 billion arbitration was obtained by Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) by fraud.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported that the Nigerian government is demanding records of 60 companies and individuals from 10 banks in the United States as part of its efforts to overturn the controversial $9.6 billion P&ID fine.
Among the individuals whose bank records are being sought are a former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan; his wife, Patience Jonathan; among others.
Mr Jonathan has denied owning any foreign accounts.
Nigeria is seeking documents from banks, including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., in a bid to overturn a $9.6 billion arbitration award.
Nigeria asked the federal court in New York for permission to subpoena information about transactions involving government officials, including Mr Jonathan and his wife. The politicians were in office when the state signed a contract with Process & Industrial Developments Ltd., and later became involved in a costly dispute with the company.
“There is good reason to believe that ministers at the highest level were involved in a corrupt scheme to steal money from Nigeria,” Attorney General Abubakar Malami said in court filings submitted on March 24.
Nigeria’s chances of annulling the giant penalty lie on proving the 2010 gas supply arrangement was a sham designed to fail by P&ID and government officials.
The saga became a full-blown crisis for Nigeria last August when a U.K. judge ruled P&ID could enforce an arbitration tribunal’s 2017 ruling, now totaling $9.6 billion including interest, which found the country breached the agreement.
The filings were done by Alexander Pencu, a partner of Meister Seelig & Fein LLP, attorneys for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of Nigeria.
Mr Pencu listed the banks involved to include “Citibank, N.A. (“Citibank”) , Allied Irish Banks plc (“Allied Irish”), HSBC Bank USA (“HSBC”), Standard New York, Inc. (“Standard New York”), Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas (“Deutsche Bank”), J.P. Morgan Chase (“JPMorgan”), United Bank for Africa (“UBA”), Bank of Cyprus, Fortis Private Banking Singapore Limited (“Fortis”), and Standard Chartered International (USA) Ltd. (‘Standard Chartered”).
Details of the information being sought are meant for use in “ongoing foreign criminal investigations and criminal proceedings in the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the “Nigerian Proceedings”),” the filing, dated March 25, reads in part.
“The requested discovery will assist Applicants in the Nigerian Proceedings to investigate and prosecute individuals and entities that participated in, and were enriched by, P&ID’s fraudulent scheme,” it added.
In the testimony of the subpoena filing addressed to Citibank, for instance, the applicant sought the intervention of the bank or any of its officers to testify in the case.
PREMIUM TIMES obtained documents showing the names and identities of the people whose names were included in the subpoena filling.
Among the politically-exposed persons named in the subpoena are a former oil minister who is now late, Rilwanu Lukman; Mr Jonathan and his wife, Patience Faka Jonathan; Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former petroleum minister during the tenure of Mr Jonathan; and Allison Amaechina Madueke.
Others named in the subpoena are Taofiq Tijani; Grace Taiga; Mohammad Kuchazi; one Michael Quinn, who died in 2014; James Nolan; Adam Quinn; and Ibrahim Dikko.
Also listed is Nigeria’s former attorney general and minister of justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke.
In its report last month, Bloomberg quoted a spokesman for P&ID as denying wrongdoing, arguing that Mr Malami has “manufactured a claim of fraud and bribery” to evade the state’s legal obligation to pay what amounts to about 30% of the country’s foreign reserves. Citigroup and Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the case, while JPMorgan and UBA didn’t respond to emails and calls.
In his reaction to the development, Mr Jonathan said that he has no account or property abroad.
“He has no accounts in the United States of America, and encourages US authorities to cooperate fully with the Federal Government of Nigeria’s subpoena,” a statement, signed by Ikechukwu Eze, spokesman to Mr Jonathan, said.