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Former NNPC Official Paulinus Okoronkwo Indicted in $2.1 Million Bribery Scandal by FBI

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WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, has indicted a former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, staff member, Paulinus Okoronkwo, in a bribery scandal involving $2.1 million.

The U.S. Department of Justice disclosed that Okoronkwo allegedly accepted the hefty sum as a bribe while facilitating favourable drilling rights for Addax Petroleum, a subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned enterprise Sinopec.

Okoronkwo, who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Nigeria, is charged with engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice.

The indictment outlines that as the general manager of the upstream division at NNPC, Okoronkwo played a pivotal role in securing advantageous terms for Addax Petroleum concerning its drilling rights in Nigeria.

The indictment reveals that in October 2015, Addax Petroleum wired $2,105,263 to an Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA) in the name of Okoronkwo’s Los Angeles-based law firm.

This payment was ostensibly for Okoronkwo’s consultancy work in negotiating a settlement agreement with NNPC over Addax’s drilling rights.

The prosecution alleges that this was a cover for a bribe intended to ensure Addax maintained its lucrative drilling rights, which were potentially worth billions in losses if not secured.

Furthermore, to mask the bribery scheme, Addax is accused of mischaracterizing the payment as legal fees, misleading auditors, and dismissing an executive who raised concerns about the transaction’s legitimacy.

Okoronkwo is alleged to have laundered a portion of these funds, using $983,200 to purchase a property in Valencia, California, in November 2017.

The indictment also accuses Okoronkwo of tax evasion for failing to declare the $2.1 million on his 2015 federal income tax return and obstruction of justice for providing false information to investigators in June 2022.

If convicted on all counts, Okoronkwo faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each charge of money laundering and obstruction of justice, and an additional five years for tax evasion.

His arraignment is scheduled to take place in the United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles in the coming weeks, marking a significant development in the fight against international corruption and bribery.

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