The trial of suspects, including the immediate-past Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, in connection with the $1.1bn Malabu oil scam, has been put on hold to await a directive by the incumbent AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), The PUNCH learnt on Thursday.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had since December 20, 2016, filed the money laundering charges with suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/268/2016, before the Federal High Court in Abuja against Adoke and eight other suspects, including a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete, and Malabu Oil & Gas Limited.
Our correspondent confirmed on Thursday that the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, assigned the case to Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, shortly after the court resumed from its Christmas and New Year holidays this January.
It was, however, learnt from court officials that no date had been fixed for the arraignment of the accused persons.
Meanwhile, sources at both the AGF’s office in the Federal Ministry of Justice and the EFCC also told our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday that the case would not likely commence any time soon even if the court fixed a date for the arraignment.
According to the sources, Malami had, shortly after the EFCC filed the charges in December, written to the anti-graft agency, directing it to remit a duplicate file of the case to him for a review.
It was learnt that the EFCC had since complied with the directive by sending the file, containing the newly filed charges, documents on the Malabu transactions, dating back to 1998 and the report of the anti-graft agency’s activities, which commenced about four years ago.
In addition to the ongoing review of the case files by the AGF, one of the reasons the case may not start soon is that some of those charged, including Adoke, are currently outside the country and the government has yet to commence extradition proceedings against them.
Speaking with our correspondent on Thursday, a source in the AGF office said the case would not commence without a directive by the AGF.
The source stated, “The EFCC is aware that they cannot proceed with the trial until the AGF finishes reviewing the file and gives legal advice on the case.
“There is the need for the AGF to review the charges filed by the EFCC because of international dimension of the case.”
The source added that the outcome of the review by the AGF would determine whether or not the EFCC would continue with the case already filed.
But the source stated that the AGF would likely file another set of charges to capture other suspects, including the oil giant, Shell, which played a major role in the transactions but were not included in the EFCC’s charges.
“It is the outcome of the review that would determine whether the EFCC would have to continue with the case already filed.
“But whatever is the outcome of the review by the AGF, he is likely to file a new set of charges against those left out in the EFCC’s charges,” a source said.
When asked when the review by the AGF would end, the source said, “The file is very big. It was brought to the ministry in a huge bag. So it may take some time for the review to be concluded.”
An EFCC source told The PUNCH that the anti-graft agency had decided to await the directive of the AGF, but added that that would not stop the agency’s ongoing work on the case.
“The EFCC has been working on the file for years. While we await the AGF’s decision on the case, it does not stop our ongoing work on the case,” the source said.
The PUNCH had reported that the Office of the AGF might file fresh charges against oil giant, Shell, in respect of fraud relating to the $1.1bn Malabu oil scam.
Already, Italian authorities had reportedly charged Shell, and another oil giant, ENI, along with others, including some Nigerians, with offences bordering on the Malabu deal before a court in Milan.
According to reports, among the total number of 13, who had been charged by the Italian authorities, are a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete; a Nigerian named Chukwuemeka Obi, who is laying claim to $110m out of the total $1.1bn.
It was learnt that the Italian authorities filed the charges barely one week after the EFCC filed seven counts on the Malabu scam against nine defendants, including Adoke.
Other accused persons named in the charges, filed by the EFCC, are Etete, Aliyu Abubakar, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited, Rocky Top Resource Limited, Imperial Union Limited, Novel Properties & Dev. Co. Limited, Group Construction Limited, Megatech Engineering Limited.
The anti-graft agency accused Adoke of illegally transferring over $800m to Etete, and Etete’s oil firm, Malabu Oil & Gas Limited, from a Federal Government account.
The EFCC also accused the oil magnate, Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu, the Chairman of A. A. Group and Rocky Top Services, of receiving $336,456,906.78.