Nigeria’s $1.7bn suit against US bank, JP Morgan, over oil deal to go to trial

Nigeria’s $1.7bn suit against US bank, JP Morgan, over oil deal to go to trial

A lawsuit launched by the Nigerian government against JP Morgan Chase, a US bank, claiming over $1.7 billion for its role in a disputed 2011 oilfield deal, will proceed to trial, London’s high court ruled on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The suit, filed in the English courts in 2017, relates to the purchase of the offshore OPL 245 oilfield in Nigeria by oil majors, Royal Dutch Shell, and Eni in 2011, which is the subject of an ongoing trial in Milan, Italy.

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The six-week London trial will start on the first available date after November 1 next year, meaning that proceedings may not begin until 2022.

Central to the case is a $1.3 billion payment from Shell and Eni to secure the block that was deposited into a Nigerian government escrow account managed by JP Morgan.

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As part of the proceedings, JP Morgan will also have to disclose within 21 days which individuals at the bank made the final decision to transfer the funds in question.

“Nigeria is pleased that JP Morgan has agreed it will now confirm all the senior figures at the bank who were involved,” a spokesman for the Nigerian government on this case told Reuters.

“This claim will move forward and Nigeria will hold JP Morgan accountable for its central role in the OPL 245 fraud.”

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In the claim, Nigeria alleges JP Morgan was negligent in its decision to transfer the funds in escrow to a company controlled by the country’s former oil minister, Dan Etete, instead of government coffers.

The damages sought include the monies allegedly sent to Etete, around $875 million paid out in three instalments, plus interest taking the total to $1.7 billion.

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