Following the conviction of Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah, top executives of Afren PLC over allegations of fraud and money laundering of over $300 million business deals in Nigeria, the duo have been alleged to have jointly laundered $45 million.
Afren was an oil and gas exploration and production company that was at a time operational in Nigeria and valued at $2.6 billion on the stock market.
It collapsed into administration in July 2015 after it was unable to service heavy debts it was plunged into through corruption.
However, following the conviction of Shahenshah the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Ullah, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) in the United Kingdom last week, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) has lauded the conviction.
The duo were found guilty of fraud and money laundering offences from which prosecutors said they personally received more than $17 million in a case involving Oriental Energy, founded by Nigerian billionaire and oil mogul, Muhammadu Indimi.
The executive chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran averred that the two key officers were noted to have created a scheme through which they were making steady cuts from any deals the company made with its Nigerian oil partners without knowledge of the board of directors.
In one single deal of about $300m, they were said to have jointly laundered over $45 million and used the illicit proceeds to purchase luxury properties in the Caribbean.
The duo was reportedly in cahoots with some management members of Oriental Energy Resources Limited, the company’s oil field partner in Nigeria throughout the duration of their crime.
They were mostly busy using their privileged positions to ill-advised their company’s board for selfish ends and both bagged a jail term of 30 (Thirty) years imprisonment.
Through all these financial manipulations and scheming, Afren, a once thriving oil company that employed hundreds of employees, became insolvent and was liquidated, thus throwing many Nigerians into unemployment market and unimaginable agony to their various dependents.
“With this conviction, it could be seen that the fight against corruption is now being addressed and frontally combated as a global issue. It is similar to the case of James Ibori, a former Delta state governor between 1999 and 2007, jailed by a British court for his role in a $250 million fraud of his state funds.
“Just like the perpetrators of the Afren’s Fraud, James Onanefe Ibori was never found guilty of any crimes of corrupt self-enrichment in Nigeria, even when it was very glaring that he was acquiring choice properties above his means everywhere. This calls to question, our sense of securing adequate justice or deterrence for criminal personal enrichment by those entrusted with trust at various levels,” CACOL noted.
The anti-graft group commended the outcome of the trial and implored governments of other global nations, especially the usual depots of proceeds of corruption, to assist African nations in their onerous but necessary fight against the despoliation of their scarce resources as a means of ending the attendant effects of chronic poverty, frustration and insecurity within the continent.