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Eight-week hearing in massive Nigeria oil lawsuit comes to an end
A lengthy eight-week trial into allegations of bribery and corruption that focused on a £11.1 billion arbitration award against the government of Nigeria has concluded in London’s Rolls Building.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Process & Industrial Development Ltd. trial is focused on an oil and gas contract that was allegedly achieved by “fraud and bribery” by senior attorneys and important officials.
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The Nigerian government awarded a contract for the supply and processing of gas to P&ID, an offshore business owned by Michael Quinn and Brendan Cahill, in 2010.
The project was never started, and P&ID launched legal action for contract breach. Arbitrators awarded the business $6.6 billion, which has grown to $11.1 billion plus interest.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria took P&ID to the High Court claiming the award should be dismissed as it was for contracts based on ‘fraud and bribery’.
In closing statements, which ran for four days, Lord Wolfson KC, for P&ID, said the case before Mr Justice Robin Knowles was ‘not a rerun of the arbitration’.
Wolfson added: “This has been a one-sided trial. It seems we had time to open and close our cases, the rest of the trial has been rather unbalanced. We have had weeks of…rather performative cross examination…long questions bound up with submissions…and abusive comment. Witness were repeatedly cut off when they might say something unhelpful to my learned friend’s case.
“My lord is writing a judgment not a novel. When Nigeria says it was not aware of something, it generally was. When they say they were stopped from running a particular argument, in fact they ran it.
“[Nigeria] have thrown allegations of fraud around like confetti but they have not had the guts to admit when those allegations should not have been made.
“It has nothing to do with the lawyers, everything to do with the government. [The government] got the right advice but did not act on it, that is the first reason this goes nowhere. No attempt was made to argue at the quantum stage that P&ID could not perform.
“You can not equate Nigeria to England, whether it is a civil servant or the lawyers, the same standards of approach and contract do not apply. It has never been raised by Nigeria, because no one would have written the necessary cheque for the necessary evidence. Without evidence the defence could never have been run.
“Nigeria has not engaged with the critical requirement to show on the causation test substantial injustice.”
Defence For Nigeria
Mark Howard KC, for Nigeria, said the ‘incentive’ to those who were allegedly bribed was ‘money money money’. He said: “They each had 850 million reasons as to why.”
He added: “An oddity is they now say bribery was endemic in Nigeria…P&ID while making concessions, refuse to tell us or your lordship what the corrupt activity is. They have left it for us to work out for ourselves.”
He said those in P&ID were “working under the illusion what they were doing in Nigeria in bribing people was open and honest.”
Howard said P&ID “made their money through corruption on a grand scale.” He added: “Quinn and Cahill were the perpetrators not the victims motivated by their own greed.
He said: “P&ID were serial bribers and paying any important official $50,000 was far from extraordinary for them.
“Once it is shown that P&ID corrupted FRN lawyers, that is such a serious injustice it undermines the administration of justice. This is a case that has gone wrong in every possible way.
“The people of Nigeria are the true victims here. They have been the target of corruption. Nigeria is a soft target for people like Quinn and Cahill to…make their millions. No doubt there are many more Cahills and Quinns who will continue to leach from the people of Nigeria until a fine line is drawn in the sand.
“Whatever happens, I urge your lordship the facts of this case must be recorded and revealed in a public judgment.”
Judgment was reserved.