Charles Fussell & Co LLP instructed in billion-pound multi-jurisdictional dispute

Charles Fussell & Co LLP has been instructed to act for the Thirteenth Defendant in a fifteen-party multi-jurisdictional claim brought by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The case concerns OPL 245, an oil prospecting licence first granted by the Nigerian government in 1998 to Malabu Oil and Gas. Following a change in government, the licence was rescinded and re-awarded to a Nigerian subsidiary of Shell PLC. A dispute then arose between Shell and Malabu as to the true ownership of the OPL 245 licence, which was purportedly resolved by way of a settlement agreement in 2006. However, Malabu then sought to sell part of its interest in the licence, which was ultimately acquired by Shell and ENI, an Italian oil company, in a series of transactions using the Nigerian government as an intermediary in 2011 (the “2011 Agreements”).

The Federal Government of Nigeria now seeks to recover the monies paid from Shell and ENI to Malabu as part of the 2011 Agreements on the basis that the purchase price was not paid for the benefit of the Nigerian people but instead comprised bribes, kick-backs and other unlawful benefits to then-government officials and others, including high level executives within the Shell and ENI companies.

Charles Fussell & Co LLP acts on behalf of Energy Venture Partners Limited, a company which was initially hired by Malabu to source a purchaser for part or all of its interest in the OPL 245 licence. EVP has already successfully brought proceedings in respect of the transaction against Malabu and was awarded $110 million for work carried out as an introducer, but the Claimant now suggests that EVP was in fact part of a corrupt scheme to facilitate the bribes and kickbacks it alleges against the Shell and ENI defendants.

The Defendants are currently seeking to challenge jurisdiction on a number of grounds. The application is expected to be heard later this year.