Mohammed Bello Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation, has described as “evil and despicable” claims by Italian prosecutors, led by Fabio De Pasquale (pictured), that he benefited N200 million “in kind” from the OPL 245/Malabu deal of 2011.
Sergio Spadaro, the Italian deputy prosecutor, had told a Milan court on Thursday that Adoke bought a property worth N500 million for only N300 million with a mortgage — and alleged that the N200 million difference was a “gift” to the former minister from the OPL 245 deal.
Adoke has always maintained that the N300 million traced to his account was a mortgage from Unity Bank and the Italian deputy prosecutor confirmed that to the court.
This would appear to contradict the position of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) — even though the Italians are working with the Nigerian anti-graft agency in the Milan trial.
In Nigeria, EFCC has charged Adoke to court over allegations of N300 million money laundering in the OPL 245 case — but the Italians are now saying it was, indeed, a mortgage.
However, they are also saying Adoke benefitted “in kind” to the tune of N200 million based on the “value” of the property.
In a statement released on Monday on Adoke’s behalf, his lawyer, Femi Oboro of UK-based Gromyko Amedu Solicitors, noted that after initially alleging that the former AGF collected $801 million from the OPL 245 deal, the prosecutors have reduced it to N200 million.
“Our client is thankful to the Italians for their gradual backhanded exoneration of his name which they have been maligning globally since 2015. They first said he collected $801 million as bribe in the OPL 245 transaction. They later reduced it to N300 million which they said was the bribe paid into his account by Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar,” he wrote.
“Now they have said he actually took a N300 million mortgage from Unity Bank but that the N200 million ‘difference’ in the price of the property was a gift to him. Our client is very certain that they will finally arrive at the truth: that he did not take one kobo from the OPL 245 transaction. But to reduce $801 million to N200 million is a major shift in the allegations.”
The solicitors also said the Italians hid a material fact from the court when they said the property in question belongs to Adoke.
They said the property was sold by the developer to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2013 when Adoke could not pay up his own equity contribution of N200 million to complete the N500 million purchase price.
The lawyers said the documentary evidence with the Italians has proved the following:
- The said property was offered to Adoke for N500 million
- Unity Bank gave him a mortgage of N300 million towards it
- He couldn’t make his equity contribution of N200 million
- The property was then sold to the CBN by the developer
- The N300 million mortgage was returned to Unity Bank by the developer
- Adoke never took possession of the property.
“It is our client’s instruction that we serve notice to the Italian prosecutors that he will meet them in court at some point because he will not allow these despicable and evil lies go unchallenged,” they said.
THE FULL STATEMENT
The Many of Lies of the Milan Prosecutor
We are Solicitors to Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Federal Republic of Nigeria (hereafter called “Our Client”) and we issue this statement on his firm instructions. Our client’s attention has been drawn to the cocktail of lies dished out to a Milan court on Thursday, the 2nd of July, 2020, by Dr Sergio Spadaro, the Deputy Milan Prosecutor, in the ongoing criminal trial of Shell and ENI over their acquisition of OPL 245, originally granted to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited. Although, our client is not on trial in Italy, it would appear the Italian prosecutors, in their bid to get Shell and ENI convicted, no longer have any regard for the truth and are ready to destroy anyone just to achieve their aim. Unfortunately, they have picked the wrong victim in him.
In his submissions to the court, Spadaro said, among several misrepresentations and mischief, that a property valued at N700 million was sold to our client by Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, owner of Carlin International Nigeria Ltd, for N500 million. He also said our client paid only N300 million with a mortgage from Unity Bank for the property. He said the difference of N200 million was a gift to our client, suggesting that it was a proceed of crime. It is our client’s contention that these allegations are completely false. The facts have been twisted and material facts have been hidden from the court in the most unprofessional manner.
In the first place, the property in question, which is located at No. 271, Cadastral Zone A06 Maitama, Abuja, does not belong to our client. It is true that he was offered the property for N500 million by Alhaji Abubakar in 2012 when he was Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. It is also true that our client took a N300 million mortgage from Unity Bank, as Spadaro told the Milan court, but it is absolutely false to say our client bought the property for that amount. As all the documents in the possession of the Italian prosecutors show, our client was to make an equity contribution of N200 million to complete the N500 million before he could take possession of the property.
However, as the Italian prosecutors also discovered in their forensic investigation, our client could not come up with the N200 million equity contribution to Carlin International Nigeria Ltd. Indeed, he had to pay interests and penalties on the mortgage because it was not performing. With our client’s inability to pay, Carlin International Nigeria Ltd sold the property to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and refunded the N300 million mortgage to Unity Bank. Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar then retrieved the Certificate of Occupancy from Unity Bank and our client’s mortgage account was closed. Most of the facts were confirmed by the prosecution witness, Mr Ferri Alessandro, in the Milan court.
To our client’s surprise, the Italian prosecutors, led by Dr Fabio De Pasquale, continue to create the false impression that the property belongs to him, thereby concealing the material fact that he never took possession of the house. This lie has now been repeated by Spadaro. This is very unprofessional. Our Client has instructed us as his lawyers to report them to the Italian bar for professional misconduct. Our client also informs us that they have been working hand-in-glove with one Olanrewaju Siraj, who purports to be a human rights activist and anti-corruption campaigner in Nigeria, but who is not better than Abu Lahab in the Holy Quran. Our client thus believes that Siraj will surely face a similar judgment for all his evil deeds against him in the last five years.
Our client further informs us that another despicable lie Spadaro told the court was that the property in question was worth N700 million but was offered to him for N500 million. This is mischief at its peak. In fact, the property offered to our client for N500 million by Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar was just a portion of the larger property that one of his companies bought for N700 million. Ironically, the Italian prosecutors have all the documents and facts in their possession but have chosen to conceal the truth from the court in the most unprofessional manner just to achieve their evil agenda.
Our client’s consolation in all this mischief by the Italian prosecutors is that they at least agreed that he took N300 million mortgage from Unity Bank and that the money was eventually returned to the bank. This fact is very important because the impression that mischief makers have been creating about him is that the N300 million was a kickback in the OPL 245 deal. The Italian prosecutors have now documented with the Milan court that, indeed, the N300 million was a mortgage from Unity Bank. They have also acknowledged that he paid interest on the mortgage. They have further acknowledged that the N300 million was returned to the bank. To prove ownership of the property in question is not difficult. The CBN, the owner, is a government institution.
In all these, our client is thankful to the Italians for their gradual backhanded exoneration of his name which they have been maligning globally since 2015. They first said he collected $801 million as bribe in the OPL 245 transaction. They later reduced it to N300 million which they said was the bribe paid into his account by Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar. Now they have said he actually took a N300 million mortgage from Unity Bank but that the N200 million “difference” in the price of the property was a gift to him. Our client is very certain that they will finally arrive at the truth: that he did not take one kobo from the OPL 245 transaction. But to reduce $801 million to N200 million is a major shift in the allegations.
It is our client’s position that to the glory of God, nobody has traced any private jet or Phantom to him. No property, home or abroad, has been traced to him. No bank account has been frozen. The Italians have searched everywhere and they cannot find anything incriminating. That is why they keep making up stories. Money trail is the easiest thing to uncover in the world. You cannot collect $801 million bribe and hide it. You cannot hide N300 million. If indeed he was involved in money laundering, they will have stumbled on the evidence in the last five years when this persecution started.
The documentary evidence with the Italians clearly shows these facts: (1) the property was offered to our client for N500 million (2) Unity Bank gave him a mortgage of N300 million towards it (3) He couldn’t make his equity contribution of N200 million (4) The property was then sold to the CBN as far back as 2013 (5) The N300 million mortgage was returned to Unity Bank by Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar in 2013 (6) He never took possession of the property. All these are indisputable facts. By this press statement, it is our client’s instruction that we serve notice to the Italian prosecutors that he will meet them in court at some point because he will not allow these despicable and evil lies go unchallenged.
Gromyko Amedu Solicitors