Nigeria: British judge rules Shasore not corrupt

by MMC
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Nigerian government lawyer Olasupo Shasore has been cleared of corruption charges in Nigeria’s lawsuit against engineering and project management company Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID).

On October 23, Judge Robin Knowles of the Commercial Court of England and Wales said that with the evidence before him, Shasore, 59, a former attorney general of Lagos State, had “not not, in my opinion, been shown to be corrupt.”

P&ID won a $6.6 billion judgment against the Nigerian government in 2017 in a private arbitration court. The company accuses the government of failing to honor a contract it signed with P&ID in 2010 for a gas processing plant in the south-south state of Cross River.

With interest added to the unpaid amount in the court verdict, the judgment against the Nigerian government ballooned to $11 billion.

The government challenged the decision, arguing that P&ID obtained the contract through dishonest means.

Additionally, the government argued that the engineering company bribed its own lawyers – Shasore being one of them – during their arbitration.

According to the government, Shasore, Nigeria’s lead lawyer in the arbitration, colluded with two other lawyers whom he bribed with $100,000 each to ensure that billions of dollars were awarded to P&ID.

In 2022, the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned Shasore in a federal court in Lagos over allegations of money laundering. The government arraigned the attorney and his company, Middlesex Investments Ltd., in state court on new money laundering charges.

Shasore denies any wrongdoing.

The government’s allegations sparked a public outcry against Shasore, accusing him of being unpatriotic. Local journal PM News wrote that he “betrayed Nigeria’s trust and failed his nation…”.

In a statement he issued at the height of the personal attacks, Shasore insisted that he was representing Nigeria in the arbitration to the best of his ability. He said he did it “with very few tools and with minimal support from the government itself.”

Not guilty

Judge Knowles, in his judgment on Monday, threw out P&ID’s $11 billion in damages.

He argued, however, that Shasore’s actions during the arbitration were inconsistent with the Nigerian government’s theory that he worked against its interests.

“First, his advice to Nigeria to investigate, allow expert evidence to be obtained and to proceed in a timely manner, was sound and consistent,” the judge said.

“Secondly, he helped Nigeria succeed in its applications to the Nigerian court. Third, his participation in the various settlement discussions helped to reduce the numbers.”

The judge also said a review of the accountability hearing transcript showed “considerable challenges” regarding Shasore’s P&ID and that it was impossible not to observe the attorney’s attempts to secure a resolution. favorable to Nigeria.

“On the other hand, the account given in this judgment shows that the responsibility for the failure to obtain evidence and avoid delays rather lies with many ministers and officials, upon which Mr Shasore SAN and others have insisted several times.”

“Leaked government documents”

The Nigerian government had also accused Shasore of colluding with lawyer Ovie Ukiri to leak internal government legal documents to P&ID. The government alleged that Shasore made a “corrupt payment” of $300,000 to Ukiri to act as his middleman in leaking the documents.

Ukiri is Shasore’s longtime associate. They were partners at Ukiri & Shasore throughout the 1990s until the firm’s merger with Ajumogobia, Okeke, Oyebode & Aluko. The duo, alongside Olufemi Lijadu, left the merger in 2017 to create USL – Ukiri, Shasore & Lijadu.

Justice Knowles said there was no evidence of collusion between Shasore and Ukiri before him and that payment from the former to the latter was made from one partner to the other in legal practice.

“There is nothing linking Mr Ukiri’s email to the payment, nor showing why Shasore SAN should proceed in this manner if he is the cause of P&ID’s receipt of copies of Nigeria’s internal legal documents,” did he declare.

The judge noted that the Nigerian government itself did not believe Shasore was corrupt.

In 2017, the government hired Shasore to represent the Department of Energy in a $2.4 billion arbitration claim. Three years later, the government hired Shasore for a second arbitration for an agreed fee of $1 million.

Justice Knowles said Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, had “failed to explain to this court how these events were consistent with his and Nigeria’s belief that Mr. Shasore SAN had been corrupt, in as part of his professional work for Nigeria in the arbitration against P&ID”.

Once touted as Governor Babatunde Fashola’s successor in Lagos, Shasore served as the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice between 2007 and 2011.

When former Lagos Governor – now President – ​​Bola Tinubu preferred Akinwunmi Ambode to succeed Fashola in 2015, it ended Shasore’s dream.

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