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Mexican Firm Accuses Government Officials of Illegal Crude Sale

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A Mexican energy trading company SAMANO SA DE CV, has written a petition to the Nigerian government accusing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of withholding a five per cent whistleblower fee after it provided useful information regarding a plot by several parties to sell the country’s stolen crude oil warehoused in silos in China.

Samano claims that several government officials acting in concert with unnamed local oil trading companies had planned to sell 48 million barrels of Bonny Light crude in 2015. Samano’s representatives claimed that the stolen crude had been moved to China where it was stored in various ports and terminals including Sinochem tanks in Zhoushan bonded area and Vishal star tanks.

Samano said that it was one of several oil trading companies contacted by the sellers of the stolen crude but once its pre-sale investigation revealed that the crude oil had been stolen, the company’s officials decided to blow the whistle and inform the Nigerian government.

Samano says that the NNPC’s current Group Managing Director Mr Mele Kyari and Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to President Buhari and a certain Mr Umar Mohammed were all promptly notified of the stolen crude.

Samano’s executives believe that its letters did not get to the president and claims that the stolen crude was eventually moved from China without the knowledge of President Buhari and sold illegally by some government and NNPC officials. The proceeds of the sale, were not remitted to the government’s treasury accounts.

Samano’s officers later tried to get the Nigerian government to pay the company a five per cent whistleblower fee but the energy trader says that instead of paying the fee, government officials harassed and threatened its representatives.

The whistleblower in a letter by its lawyer, Gboyega Oyewole of Lord and Temple, a United Kingdom-based law firm, dated July 23, 2020 to the NNPC GMD has demanded for the company’s compensation for helping to expose the criminal activity.

The whistleblower policy, an anti-corruption programme launched in 2016 by the Nigerian Government, encourages individuals to report cases of financial mismanagement or stolen funds in return for a share of the recovered proceeds if the information turns out to be credible.

The letter reads, “Our client was approached by a group in the People’s Republic of China with the intent to sell 48 million barrels of Bonny Light Crude Oil believed to have been stolen from the Federal Republic of Nigeria and stored in various ports and terminals in China.

“It was revealed to our client that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporations authorised certain companies to sell the stolen product.

“It was agreed that an investigation into the stolen products should be made to ascertain the veracity of the information and gather more facts as to the fraudulent activities. It was also agreed that if the information is found credible, the perpetrators of the offensive will be apprehended and that compensation due to our client for the information so brought forward will be awarded.

“In October 2015, our client got wind of the fact that the stolen products were being moved from their location in China by the Nigerian Government in calculated steps to recover the said products. Our client then caused a letter to be written to Mr Mele Kyari, through Mr. Marco Ramirez, offering to legally purchase the said products from the Nigerian Government if available for sale.

“Our client through its representative subsequently wrote to Mr Umar Mohammed clarifying its intention to the criminal activity in respect to the stolen products and not to make illegal purchases of the same.

“To date, our client has unfortunately not received any form of compensation for the information provided to the Nigerian Government in respect of the stolen products and or response to its offer to legally purchase the same when recovered.

“The upright act of reporting the criminal activity to appropriate quarters was not protected by the expected confidential nature of the policy, thereby exposing officials of our client to serious consequences including threat to life.”

The NNPC did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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