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Thursday, 31 August 2017

U.S government begins probe into allegations Nigerian government officials received N36billion bribe from Chinese company

U.S government begins probe into allegations Nigerian government officials received N36billion bribe from Chinese company

The alleged payments were intended to resolve a $4 billion dispute between the Chinese oil company’s Addax Petroleum unit in Geneva and the Nigerian government.

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U.S government to probe Sinopec over alleged bribes given to Nigerian government officials

- Nigeria's name has been dragged into another potential bribery scandal on an international scale

- Sinopec, the world’s biggest oil refiner, has been mentioned in the scandal which has the United States government at the fore front of the investigations

- Report has it that about $100 million (about N36 billion) worth of bribes was paid by Sinopec to some Nigerian officials

A report by Bloomberg indicates that U.S. authorities are investigating the world’s biggest oil refiner, Sinopec, over allegations that the company paid Nigerian officials about $100 million (about N36 billion) worth of bribes to resolve a business dispute.

According to the report, investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Justice Department are looking into allegations that outside lawyers acting as middlemen for Sinopec, funneled illicit payments from its Swiss unit to the Nigerians through banks in New York and California.

The alleged payments were intended to resolve a $4 billion dispute between the Chinese oil company’s Addax Petroleum unit in Geneva and the Nigerian government over drilling and other capital costs, tax breaks and a division of royalties between Addax and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

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The SEC is handling its inquiry through its Los Angeles office, and the Justice Department investigation is being led by the U.S. attorney’s office in that city.

Sinopec, the world’s biggest oil refiner, is one of the largest foreign state-owned enterprises to be investigated by U.S. prosecutors.

The matter springs from Sinopec’s biggest acquisition. The Chinese company bought Addax in 2009 for about $7.8 billion to build a corporate presence in Geneva, a commodity-trading hub, and to expand its oil production in Africa.

Addax operated in Nigeria under a deal with the government. From 2001, Addax benefited from a Side Letter agreement that granted it tax breaks and reimbursements for capital costs.

Around 2014, Nigerian authorities decided that the Side Letter should no longer apply and demanded that Addax repay about $3 billion of past benefits.

By the end of that year, Addax had filed a lawsuit against the government to protest that decision. It also sought reimbursement of at least $1 billion, contending that the NNPC had taken more than its share of crude allotments - a practice known as “overlifting.”

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities are looking into whether payments handled by an unidentified Nigerian lawyer who is a member of the California bar were used to pay some of the alleged bribes.

The lawyer was hired to advise Addax executives on the terms of the settlement with the Nigerian government.

In a related development, Nigeria's Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has said the U.S government is ready to help Nigeria repatriate stolen funds by past government officials.

Osinbajo stated this in a series of tweets on Monday, August 28, while thanking the U.S government for selling fighter jets and weapons to Nigeria.

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