Ednan Tofik ogly Agaev, a former Russian Ambassador to Colombia, who is charged with international corruption over the OPL 245 affair, has on Thursday, June 27, 2019, said he was pressured to mention a name in his interrogation by US Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI.
In the FBI interview, he named Mohammed Adoke, former attorney-general of the federation, AGF, as one of the recipients of the $400 million bribes allegedly paid to government officials in the deal.
However, when the FBI statement was read to him in a Milanese court on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, and was asked to adopt it as part of his defence but Agaev declined.
He told the court he was under pressure to mention a name during the interview and he mentioned Adoke, adding that he didn’t mean for the interview to be used against him in court.
Adoke has vehemently denied taking any bribes in the deal, which was concluded in 2011 under his watch as AGF.
However, he has been charged to court for money laundering in an Abuja court by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for allegedly receiving $2.2 million bribe in the OPL 245 deal.
In Italy on Wednesday, Agaev appeared in court as a defendant as the trial of what is dubbed “the greatest corporate scandal in history” continued.
Barnaby Pace of the Global Witness, the UK-based body that has been at the forefront of the amplification of the OPL 245 affair, live-tweeted from the court.
Speaking at the Milan court, Agaev disclosed that he knew former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the first time in the 1980s and campaigned for his release in the 1990s but didn’t learn about OPL 245 until 2008 when working for a Russian oil company.
He further disclosed that he knew the OPL 245 block was revoked because Etete was associated with Malabu, the company owning the block.
He alleged further that former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the block was intended for late Sani Abacha, a former Nigerian military ruler.
According to Barnaby Pace, a campaigner at anti-corruption group Global Witness, who was at the Milan Court, the defendant explained that after Abacha’s death, the company fell to Etete.
Agaev, who started his career for the Soviet Union Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he was a senior official for arms control, disclosed that his job was only to find an investor because Etete was in charge of negotiating with the Nigerian government and he didn’t need any help or contacts from him.
He alleged that the block was given back to Etete by Obasanjo to shore up political support in the south of Nigeria.
Agaev also disclosed that he was introduced to Etete by Aliyu Gusau in 2008. Gusau served as National Security Advisor under Messrs Obasanjo and Jonathan.
The former security chief wanted him to find a Russian oil company investor to deal with Etete and Shell, he added.
He said Mr Gusau later introduced him to John Coplestone of Shell, whom he (Gusau) knew because he had been head of the MI6 station in Abuja.
The defendant explained that he only ever met Mr Etete because of Malabu and Mr Etete was the only person representing the firm on OPL 245.
Relationship with Etete, Adoke
Agaev was asked about the dinner in February 2010 with Eni’s Claudio Descalzi, Etete, himself and Emeka Obi, another middleman convicted for his role in the Malabu scandal, he explained that Messrs Obi and Descalzi had a good relationship based on the body language.
He added, however, that Shell was worried about the role of the Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke.
He also claimed that Etete told him he and Adoke were “close” and the former attorney general was in turn close to Jonathan.
Agaev alleged that he was covering Etete’s expenses, travels and hotels. But in 2010, Shell asked him to stop paying so Etete would be financially squeezed.
He alleged further that Etete told him Adoke also pressured him by telling him the government could revoke the block. After the deal was done, he said he took Etete to Moscow, in late spring.
The former oil minister was very happy, he said, adding that he got over a billion dollars but didn’t want to pay him (Agaev) so he sued for $66 million in London and tried to freeze the money.
Mr Agaev alleged at this juncture that Etete said he had friends he had to pay back including Nigerian lawmakers. The court asked Mr Agaev if Mr Adoke was one of those to be paid and he reportedly denied but added further that he doesn’t know.
Mr Agaev claimed Mr Etete owed Mr Adoke money from legal work before he became Attorney General. When asked whether he thought Mr Jonathan got money from the deal, he said his statement to the FBI should be understood that he thought it was a possibility money would go to Mr Jonathan.
When confronted with his exact statement alleging that Mr Jonathan may have received money, a defence lawyer interrupted and objected to the evidence on payments to the former president.
The President of the court however silenced him even as the lawyer continued to interrupt. Speaking further, Mr Agaev said that Mr Etete had so much influence and he did not need to bribe anyone.
Commenting on his previous statement, Mr Agaev said it was just speculation and declined to confirm his statement. He promptly denied any wrongdoing.
The next hearing over the controversial case is scheduled for July 17, 2019.
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