The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is set to sue a Mexican international oil firm, SAMANO SA DE CV, which it has accused of being a crime syndicate.
The crime syndicate, SAMANO SA DE CV, and its officials had attempted to swindle the Nigerian government of over $125 million.
Over a week ago, there were reports that some top staff of the NNPC and other government officials had reclaimed 48 million barrels of crude oil stolen by a Chinese group and resold same and also shared the proceeds.
NNPC’s legal counsel, Afe Babalola & Co., said in a statement on Thursday said that the NNPC has already initiated plans to seek redress “for the injury to the Corporation and its officials through series of falsehoods peddled by SAMANO and its agents”.
In a letter signed by Gboyega Oyewole, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the law firm said its client was accusing the Nigerian government officials and NNPC of failing to pay its whistleblower compensation of 5% for information it gave them over an oil deal.
Mr Oyewole made reference to discussions between SAMANO SA DE CV and the officials involved in 2015 over information about 48 million barrels of Nigerian Bonny Light Crude Oil allegedly stolen from Nigeria and stored in various ports and terminals in the People’s Republic of China.
The firmed claimed the officials used the information it provided to sell the crude oil, but said it was neither carried along in the sharing of the proceeds from the sale nor were they paid the agreed 5 per cent whistleblower compensation.
According to the NNPC, not only were the reports replete with falsehoods, they were attempts by SAMANO, working in concert with its local and international agents, to intimidate, blackmail and extort money from the Nigerian government and NNPC.
How NNPC and SAMANO’s Relationship began
SAMANO approached NNPC and the Nigerian government in 2015, claiming a Chinese group had approached it to buy 48 million barrels crude oil believed to be stolen from Nigeria.
Prior to President Buhari assuming office in 2015, SAMANO approached NNPC to purchase the crude oil, however, changed plans to say it was no more interested in buying the crude oil as it was only obliging the federal government with the information as its support to the Buhari administration’s fight against corruption.
The NNPC said it was sceptical about the possibility of shipping 48 million barrels of crude oil without a trace.
“For context, as of 2015, the daily production of crude oil in Nigeria was below 1.6 million barrels. Therefore, 48 million barrels of crude oil would have been the total production capacity of the country for a whole month.
“It was and remains simply impossible for one-month crude oil production for the entire country to disappear without any record or trace from the shores of the country,” the NNPC said.
The NNPC said the Chinese government denied having stolen Nigerian crude in any of its ports or terminal.
The NNPC also said that after it realised that SAMANO was a crime syndicate and decided to sever ties with them, the firm resulted to blackmail and this prompted them to make a formal report with the DSS.
Investigations by DSS
The NNPC said: “the government established allegations of conspiracy, forgery, obtaining money by false pretence, blackmail and extortion as well as some fraudulent activities against agents of SAMANO, Messrs Ramirez and Salazar”.
SAMANO is a firm “that habitually intimidates, blackmails, and defrauds government officials and other high-profile persons around the world.”
The NNPC said it was discovered that Mr Ramirez was indicted by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas as the mastermind of a scheme leading to the loss of several millions of dollars through various mail and wire frauds between 2010 and 2013.
“There is a subsisting warrant issued by the United States Government for the arrest of Mr Ramirez. His wife has been convicted in the United States for her role in a visa lottery scam he masterminded.
“NNPC is aware that this investigation led to the filing of Charge No.: FCT/HC/BU/CR/134/2019 between Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Marco Antonio Ramirez & 4 Others at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Some of the offences in the charge are criminal conspiracy, forgery, extortion and attempt to obtain money by false pretence.
“NNPC also understands that Mr Ramirez and his cohorts are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for other unrelated offences at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in Charge No: FCT/HC/CR/147/2016 and the Federal High Court, Lagos in Charge No: ID/2763/2016.
“NNPC is convinced that the chameleonic posture of SAMANO as a potential buyer, then gratuitous informant and subsequently a whistle-blower demonstrates its desperation to hoodwink and defraud the Federal Republic of Nigeria by all means,” the NNPC said.
“SAMANO’s attempt to shift attention from the ongoing criminal charges against its Managing Director and agents will not fly. NNPC has instructed its counsel to take appropriate legal actions against SAMANO and its officers for the injury done to the corporation and its officials by the falsehoods peddled by SAMANO and its agents,” the NNPC said.