Reasons, why the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) did not prosecute oil and gas firm, Oriental Energy, after it was named in a UK criminal conviction, have been revealed in a report by Premium Times NG.
Oriental Energy is an indigenous firm owned by Nigeria’s billionaire oil magnate, Muhammadu Indimi.
The newspaper had reported how the oil firm was named in a money laundering and fraud case involving Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah, two former top executives of energy firm, Afren.
The duo were in October convicted after they were found guilty of money laundering offences in the United Kingdom.
Prosecutors said Messrs Shahenshah and Ullah illegally received more than $17 million in a case involving Oriental Energy and they committed the offences whilst serving as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Afren, respectively.
The officials were said to have laundered more than $45 million from a $300 million deal they recommended to Afren, using their illicit proceeds to purchase luxury properties in the Caribbean, without the knowledge of Afren’s Board.
Prosecutors said Messrs Shahenshah and Ullah created a side deal with one of Afren’s Nigerian oil partner, Oriental, that would allow them to benefit from payments Afren would make.
The men recommended a transaction to the Afren Board, who then approved payments of hundreds of millions of dollars without knowing that Messrs Shahenshah and Ullah stood to personally benefit.
The transaction was claimed to be necessary to maintain the business partnership, but the fact that both men stood to benefit personally remained hidden.
Lisa Osofsky, Director of the Serious Fraud Office said: “Greed motivated this crime. Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah failed in their duties as company directors, abused their positions and lied to their board.
“Instead of acting in their company’s best interests, they used Afren like a personal bank account to fund an illicit deal, with no regard for the consequences.
“Fraud corrodes confidence, undermines trust and damages the reputation of the UK at home and abroad. It is our mission to bring those committing this crime to justice.”
SFO said that Messrs Shahenshah and Ullah recommended that the Afren board agree to a $300 million payment to Oriental Energy Resources Ltd, the company’s oil field partner in Nigeria.
Unknown to the Afren board, both men struck a side deal with Oriental which led to 15 per cent of the $300 milion being paid out to a Caribbean shell company controlled by the defendants.
The men then used the $45 million to purchase luxury properties in Mustique and the British Virgin Islands.
A smaller portion of the $45 million laundered was split between Oriental employees and a close network of Afren staff dubbed ‘The A Team’.
On October 29, at Southwark Crown Court, a judge, Gledhill QC, sentenced both officials of Afren to prison.
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