Federal Government prosecutors are seeking information about funds sent to Grace Taiga, former director, Legal Services in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, that were sent through Allied Irish Banks Plc, broadening an international legal dispute between Nigeria and Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) claiming $9.6 billion for a failed contract, reports Bloomberg.
Nigeria is embroiled in a fight with P&ID over a failed 2010 deal to develop a gas processing plant.
Nigeria now alleges the contract was won corruptly and the project was never meant to succeed. P&ID denies any wrongdoing.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has expanded its probe into the deal by making formal requests for assistance from Irish law enforcement and the U.K.’s National Crime Agency, Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the agency, said in an interview in London. He was one of more than a dozen government officials to speak with Bloomberg on Tuesday.
Nigerian prosecutors said they had evidence of two bank transfers totaling $20,000 made by Dublin-based Industrial Consultants (International) Ltd. — part of the P&ID group of companies — to Grace Taiga, former director, Legal Services in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, who oversaw the award of the gas plant contract. The payments, in 2017 and 2018, were made from an Industrial Consultants account at Allied Irish Banks and were purportedly for “medical costs,” Bala Sanga, the lead prosecutor, said in the interview.
Paddy McDonnell, a spokesman for Allied Irish Banks, said the bank did not comment on individual accounts. A spokesperson for P&ID didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest allegations.
Taiga’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), denied that his client had been bribed. “How could there have been a bribe to facilitate the contract that was done in 2010 and now get paid in 2018 or 2017?” Wole Olanipekun said. “It just doesn’t add up.”
The payments, along with Taiga’s email records, showed a “longstanding relationship” between the government official and P&ID founder Michael Quinn, who died in 2015, and his partner Brendan Cahill, Sanga said. Taiga pleaded not guilty last week to charges of fraud and accepting bribes.
Meanwhile, Justice O.A. Adeniyi of the FCT High Court, sitting in Apo, Abuja, on Wednesday, admitted Grace Taiga, former director, Legal Services in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, in the alleged multiple fraud involving P&ID in Suleja Prison to bail in the sum of N10 million.
Justice Adeniyi on September 21 remanded Taiga in the Nigerian Correctional Service in Suleja, Niger State.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged that Taiga, a former director, Legal Services in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, was a key actor in the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) between the Federal Government and P&ID.
She was alleged to have used her position to administer undue favours to the company.
She was arraigned on eight-count amended charges, bordering on accepting bribes and other related crimes.
Justice Adeniyi ordered the defendant to produce two sureties who must not be below the cadre of a director in the Federal Ministry.
Earlier, defence counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), prayed the court to admit his client to bail on grounds of health challenges.
He informed the court that Taiga is a 62-year-old woman who has various health challenges, varying from hypertension to diabetes.
He also told the court that she is a lawyer with 42 years post call who has never been in any form of trouble all through her years of practice.
Objecting to the bail application made by Olanipekun, prosecution counsel, Bala Sanga, stated that the ailments bothering Taiga are common in the society and can be adequately managed in the prison.
Sanga also stated that the defense counsel had no concrete evidence or proof to back up his claims.
The accused pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The trial commences October 14.