Allegations of six-figure bribes, shady middlemen and fabricated evidence presented in an $11 billion UK court case ending this week could cost Nigeria a third of its foreign exchange reserves.
Africa’s largest economy wants the UK Supreme Court to overturn the massive arbitration award in favor of the hedge fund-backed Process & Industrial Development Ltd as soon as possible. Lawyers for both sides traded allegations of corruption, duplicity and incompetence during the eight-week trial – with no verdict expected for at least several weeks.
An unfavorable decision for Nigeria could affect the country’s already strained finances, make borrowing more expensive and override the political priorities of the new president, who was elected last month.
The lawsuit stems from a failed 2010 gas deal between Nigeria and P&ID, a British Virgin Islands-registered company founded by two little-known Irish businessmen. The resulting arbitration awarded P&ID $6.6 billion in damages which has now been inflated to more than $11 billion in interest. VR Capital Group Ltd. Hedge Fund , two British lawyers, the founder of P&ID and two missing witnesses are among those who could make billions of dollars if P&ID wins and pays in full.
Nigeria alleged “epic corruption on an industrial scale” first for the gas deal and then for the purchase of lawyers representing the country to win the arbitration award in 2017, the country’s current lawyer, Mark Howard, said in his closing argument.
“We completely deny that there has been any corruption,” P&ID attorney David Wolfson said in closing arguments on Wednesday. He said Nigeria had provided fabricated evidence to set up a “medical-legal trap” for the court to rule against the verdict.
A spokesman for the Fund said: “Nigeria has been liberal in its disparagement and has drawn truth throughout this trial.”
Two lawyers have $3 billion and jobs at stake in a UK court case
On the week-long witness stand, surviving P&ID founder Brendan Cahill described sending $250,000 in cash from Ireland to an official in Nigeria. P&ID said it was a business transaction unrelated to the case, arguing that Nigeria had failed to prove what Howard called “brazen evidence” of the bribes. Cahill did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The missing witnesses
Two key witnesses absent from the trial are Adam Quinn, son of P&ID co-founder Michael Quinn, and another businessman, who could earn more than $2 billion and just under $1 billion, respectively, if P&ID succeeds, according to Howard.
Another witness who could have explained the “seductive sums of money”, Howard said, did not appear at the last moment. The witness suffered psychological problems days before he was transferred via the Internet from an “unspecified location”.
P&ID said that witnesses who could help the company have been harassed by the Nigerian security services. A state spokesperson said the country has not called any witnesses because they are not required under the court’s rules. “The broad allegations” against P&ID are “fully substantiated,” the spokesperson said.
But Wolfson argued that any witness to the country would be exposed as a fraud.
“It was a particularly one-sided trial,” Wolfson said. “Having chosen to make her bed without evidence, the Federal Republic of Nigeria must now lie on it.”
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