Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has uncovered how $32.5 million of about $200 million fines from Halliburton Energy Services was allegedly paid into a private account.
The cash was said to be missing because the anti-graft agency could not ascertain whether or not it was remitted into the Federal Government’s account.
A top shot with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC), Mr. Roland Ewubare, who was one of the lawyers involved in the Settlement Agreement with Halliburton, has been given up to September 15 to submit a letter authorising him by the Federal Government to open the private escrow account.
Ewubare told the EFCC that, as the then Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), he acted in national interest in opening the escrow account.
He is in the United States to retrieve the relevant documents relating to the account for the EFCC.
The EFCC has grilled the Managing Director of Halliburton Energy Services in Nigeria, Henry Oki.
Oki gave the details of how agreements were signed between the Federal Government and Halliburton in London.
About five companies have paid fines in line with a Settlement Agreement with the Federal Government .
The breakdown of the remittances by the five companies is as follows: Julius Berger ($35m); Siemens (Euros 30m); Snamprogetti ($30m); Halliburton Energy Services ($32,500,000); and Japan Gasoline Corporation ($26, 500,000).
Top Nigerian lawyers who oversaw the agreement are a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph B Daudu (SAN), Mr. E.C Ukala (SAN) Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), Mr. Roland Ewubare and Damian Dodo (SAN).
Some members of the legal team were conferred with national honours for the recovery.
EFCC detectives have discovered that the missing $32.5million was transferred by Halliburton into FGN JP Morgan Chase New York Swift BIC Code CHASUS 33, Account No. 000742501406865.
It was gathered that the account was titled Madison Avenue/ Escrow /CBN/ FGN further Credit to FGN Litigation Settlement.
The EFCC team later discovered that although the account was opened in the name of the Federal Government, it was a purely private account which was managed by Ewubare and others as signatories.
A top source said: “Out of over $200million fines paid, about $32.5million(N13,585,000, 000) is missing. Our team only succeeded in tracing the transfer of the cash into an account in New York but there is no record of whether or not it was remitted into the Federal Government Consolidated Account.
“We have raised issues on why the money was paid into a private account which led to the deduction of about 3.5% for some services.
“When we confronted a top official of NNPC, Roland Ewubare(who was at the time of the agreement the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission), he said $20million out of the $32.5million was remitted into the Federal Government account. We are yet to confirm this transfer because there are no records.
“We have given Ewubare up till September 15 to produce a letter from the Federal Government authorizing the payment of the $32.5million into a private escrow account and other documents relating to transactions in the account including the agreement on deduction of 3.5% for services out of the sum.
“As I speak with you, Ewubare is in the United States to retrieve all these relevant documents. He told us that he acted in the interest of the country and he has nothing to hide. But we need these documents from him.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “We have confirmed that other fines by Julius Berger ($35m); Siemens (Euros 30m); Snamprogetti($30m); and Japan Gasoline Corporation($26, 500,000) were paid into the Federal Government Consolidated Revenue Account.
“But we have issues with Halliburton Energy Services($32,500,000). As a matter of fact, Halliburton rejected the first account given to it before the private account was provided as an alternative.”
In his testimony, Ewubare defended the transparency of the opening of the account and the remittance of the $32.5million before the EFCC detectives.
He, however, wrote as follows in his statement of witness: “The escrow agent or its nominees are typical signatories. The signatories were undisclosed nominees and myself.
“The escrow account was closed by JP Morgan after Japan Gasoline Corporation payment. The name of the escrow account is “Madison Avenue Escrow.”
Oki told detectives: “It is important to state that the person that communicated the Federal Government of Nigeria bank details as well as D.D. Dodo’s bank details was a prominent member whom the AGF delegated to engage with us in person of Mr. Roland Ewubare.”
He gave the synopsis of how Halliburton paid the $32.5million into the escrow account.
He added: “On the 11th of December 2010, the FGN and Halliburton entered into a Settlement and Non-Prosecution Agreement for the dismissal of the law suit in exchange for an ex-gratia payment of $32.5million into FG dedicated account.
“Halliburton was also to shoulder the FG legal cost to its designated counsel with the assurance from the government that such payments were legal under Nigerian laws and regulations.
“The agreements were signed by the AGF on behalf of the Nigerian government and in the presence of EFCC Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Akomaye in London.
“Halliburton’s Easter Hemisphere President signed the agreement in the presence of Mr. James Ferguson, the Senior VP and Deputy General Counsel.
“The bank details in Schedule 1 and 2 of the agreement were found to be incomplete and incorrect by Halliburton Treasury and bankers(CITIBANK) on the 14th of December, 2010.
“ Halliburton asked for the corrected bank information from the Federal Government and her legal counsel which was provided to us on the 16th of December by Roland Ewubare on the email provided.
“The account is an escrow account. I am not sure at this point if the change in bank account details was by way of addendum. However, we were advised by the bank that this as a bonafide Federal Government of Nigeria account.”
Culled from The Nation Newspaper