The name of Houston-based Nigerian businessman, Kase Lawal, has popped up in the bloody gold-smuggling activities after the police arrested a ring of smugglers two weeks ago in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Congo has been plagued by a gruesome war in which two weeks ago.

Mr. Lawal’s brother, Mukaila Lawal  (a.k.a. Mickey), was listed as a passenger in a jet that was seized after Congolese authorities found $7 million in cash and more than $20 million worth of gold that was heading out of the eastern Congo. “Mickey” Lawal runs Mr. Kase Lawal’s Nigerian operations.

Mr. Lawal was arrested after a car chase by Congolese authorities who suspected foul play and went after the group with police cruisers.

The latest revelations in the case link Kase Lawal to the group of smugglers that had a private jet that flew them to the Congo. Mr. Kase Lawal’s multi-billion dollar company, CAMAC International, leased the jet, a Gulfstream IV, from a Dallas company and sent it to the Congo for the smuggling operation.

Mr. Kase Lawal was once considered a fugitive from the law after a high court in Lagos issued an arrest warrant against him in 1999. The warrant was issued in a time that marked a boom in his businesses, especially in South Africa where he secured the assistance of ANC officials and made huge profits from an oil deal that involved Nigeria and South Africa.

In 1999, the Nigerian police fraud unit led by Nuhu Ribadu who later became the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigated Mr. Kase Lawal for being linked to the Osahon Group that was involved in stealing an oil well. Shortly after the investigations began, Mr. Lawal escaped from Nigeria.

However, when the late Nigerian ruler Umaru Yar'adua came to power, Mr. Lawal maneuvered himself into prominence by becoming close to Mrs. Turai Yar'adua, the then “First Lady.” Mr. Lawal leveraged his influence with the late president's kitchen cabinet to get oil-lifting contracts. As soon as Yar'adua passed away last May, Mr. Lawal became a member of his successor, Goodluck Jonathan's, Presidential Advisory Committee.

2008-A look at the Nigerian complaint against Lawal
| McClatchy Newspapers

By Greg Gordon and Will Connors

LAGOS, Nigeria — A six-count criminal complaint filed in Nigeria eight years ago charges Kase Lawal with joining in a plot to forge papers in the name of a local company, win offshore-drilling approvals and illegally pump and sell more than 10 million barrels of crude oil.

Lawal, the chairman and executive officer of Houston-based CAMAC International Corp., is named in all six counts of an amended complaint filed in 2001 in the High Court of Lagos, along with five other individuals and three companies. The alleged crimes occurred while Lawal was trying to build CAMAC into a player in the global oil industry.

The complaint accuses all the defendants of forging letters from 1990 to 2000 under the letterhead of Cavendish Petroleum Resources Ltd., a Nigerian company that CAMAC affiliates were helping to develop a leased offshore oil field.

In 1999 and 2000, it says, they forged papers seeking government approval for an oil field development plan, summarizing its monthly production figures and nominating tankers that would carry the oil.

Between December 1999 and October 2000, the complaint charges, the defendants illegally pumped and sold 10.7 million barrels of crude oil, cheating the government out of $1.9 million in royalties.

Along with Lawal, the complaint names Cavendish exploration manager Billi Follahan; four other individuals; CAMAC subsidiaries Allied Energy Resources Ltd. and CAMAC International Nigeria Ltd.; and Ireland-based Tuskar Resources Ltd.

In interviews with McClatchy, Lawal denied wrongdoing and gave a different version of events.

He said that when seismic tests from 1991-93 showed that the Cavendish's oil field's production would be ``very, very marginal,'' Conoco Co., another partner, dropped out of the deal.

Lawal said that the field would produce ``at best, about 2,000 barrels per day'' and a maximum of about 400,000 barrels of oil. Lawal said he agreed to go forward at Cavendish's request, but brought in Dublin-based Tuskar ``to spread the risk.''

Even before production started, Lawal said, Cavendish began to demand bigger monthly payments from CAMAC and Tuskar and, when they refused, ``a blackmail started.''

Lawal said he suspects the police were ``unduly influenced'' by Cavendish's patriarch, Mai Deribe, who since has died. A lawyer for Deribe's children declined to comment.

Tuskar's statements to its shareholders in 1998 and 1999 were more optimistic. In 1998, the company said the shallow-water oil field was ``exceeding expectations,'' with two wells testing at a combined flow rate of 9,500 barrels per day and that experts estimated it contained about 15 million barrels of ``proved and probable reserves.'' In 2000, Tuskar said it was producing about 4,000 barrels per day and that two more wells could yield 6,900 barrels per day.

Later that year, however, Cavendish refused to apply for an export permit, Tuskar collapsed and charges were filed.

Lawal said CAMAC and Tuskar each lost about $17 million on the venture.

(Connors is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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