Nigeria bids to overturn $9.6 bn P&ID court case

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Nigeria is seeking documents from 10 banks, including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co, in a bid to overturn a $9.6 billion arbitration award related to a business deal shrouded in allegations of corruption.

Nigeria asked a federal court in New York for permission to subpoena information about transactions involving former government officials, including former President Goodluck Jonathan.

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 hinge on proving the 2010 gas supply arrangement was a sham designed to fail by P&ID and government officials.

Officials in the country went on a full frontal attack mode 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.

Nigeria is seeking the bank documents as part of an internal investigation into the contract and the arbitration proceedings. The findings will form the basis of the U.K. appeal.

P&ID “had no ability or intention of ever performing” the contract, which required the company to build a gas processing plant and the government to supply it, Malami said.

Nigeria wants the U.S. court’s permission to obtain information from the banks relating to companies and individuals affiliated with P&ID, as well as former government officials, to aid the ongoing investigation by the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The 10 institutions are likely to have processed U.S. dollar transactions connected to P&ID’s operations, as either correspondent banks or the New York branches of foreign lenders, the filings said.

U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield allowed Nigeria to send copies of its application to the banks, eight of which had been served by April 15, according to filings. The court, however, hasn’t decided whether to give Nigeria access to the financial documents.

The country’s request may run into opposition from the banks. JPMorgan complained in a court filing that it has “substantial concerns about the breadth of the proposed subpoena.”

Nigeria is seeking documents from lenders including Citigroup and JPMorgan, as well as the New York branches of Deutsche Bank AG and United Bank for Africa Plc.

The EFCC is probing the roles of two former oil ministers, the late Rilwanu Lukman and his successor Diezani Alison-Madueke, according to Nigeria’s court filings. Lukman signed the contract while Alison-Madueke was responsible for the “flagrant mishandling” of the government’s arbitration strategy until 2015, the country said.

The EFCC hasn’t yet found “direct evidence” the politicians received payments from P&ID or its affiliates, the country said in its court filings.

The request includes “all documents concerning any transactions to, from, or for the benefit” of Jonathan and his wife between 2009 and the present day.

Jonathan led Nigeria from May 2010 – several months after P&ID sealed the contract – until he lost an election five years later to the current head of state, Muhammadu Buhari.

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