One of the leading anti-corruption groups in the UK, The Corner House has threatened legal action in response to a widely publicised complaint sent on behalf of former Nigeria’s Attorney General, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) to the Police Inspector-General that the Mutual Legal Assistance, (MLA) made by UK to Italy which aided his recent judgment in Milan, was forged.
Adoke had written a petition to the former IGP Mohammed Adamu, claiming that the legal instrument deployed to aid his conviction in Italy over the OPL 245 scam was forged by Corner House.
Leading global coalitions against corruption, including Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA), Re-Common, Water House and a host of others had provided technical assistance in exposing alleged corrupt practices involving oil giants, Eni and Shell.
In a letter to Kanu G. Agabi & Associates, the law firm that submitted the complaint on behalf of Adoke, the Corner House urged the Nigeria police to recognise the international dimension the case has taken and not allow individuals to subvert the institutions of justice in Nigeria.
The group said the proper place for the former minister to have challenged the veracity of the email was in the courtroom in Milan where it was used as evidence against him and the oil giants.
“The statements made in the complaint about us are entirely untrue and highly defamatory. Corner House has been accused by your client of criminal acts, namely forgery and falsification of evidence – accusations that are highly damaging to the reputation of Corner House as an internationally respected anti-corruption group.
“In the UK, Corner House has been honoured for its work by Liberty, Justice and The Law Society, which awarded the group their highly coveted Human Rights Award. The group’s legal action against the UK government in 2008 for halting an investigation into alleged bribery by BAE Systems in Saudi Arabia is widely credited with having forced the UK to introduce stronger anti-bribery legislation.
“The existence of the email came to light after it was disclosed by JP Morgan Chase to the Federal Republic of Nigeria [FRN] as a result of proceedings in the High Court in London where the FRN is currently suing the bank for damages relating to its handling of funds arising from Shell and Eni's acquisition in 2011 of the OPL 245 oil field in Nigeria (case number: CL-2017-000730). Adoke was the Attorney General at the time of the deal and a key negotiator.
“In its claim, the FRN stated that an email had been sent by Adoke on 21 June 2011 to Bayo Osolake, employee at JP Morgan Chase, from the email address '[email protected]'. Copies of the Resolution Agreements for the OPL 245 deal were attached to the email.
“The FRN further stated in court documents that the email address was associated with 'the A Group of Nigerian companies controlled by Mr Abubakar Aliyu'. Group Construction, which is part of the group, subsequently received some of the OPL 245 funds which were transferred by JP Morgan to a company named Malabu Oil & Gas.
“Having become aware of the email, which we believed to be relevant to the prosecution in Milan of Royal Dutch Shell, Eni Spa and others, Corner House, acting in the public interest, informed the Milan Prosecutor of the FRN’s statements to the High Court in London.
“The Milan Prosecutor issued a European Investigation Order (Ref:54772/13) to the UK, seeking the email from JP Morgan. The UK authorities complied with the request and obtained the email, which was subsequently accepted as evidence by the Milan Tribunal,” the group said.
The Corner House stated that the group expects Adoke to issue a full retraction of the defamatory statements made against it as soon as possible.
It vowed to initiate legal action against the former minister if no retraction is made within the next 10 days.
“We reserve our right to bring proceedings in the UK or any other jurisdiction where damage has been caused. We are currently assessing the extent of the damage to our reputation caused by internet publication of the complaint in the UK. Given the wide UK readership of the Nigerian newspapers which reported the complaint online, we believe that many readers in the UK will have read the defamations,” the group said.