Former Russian Diplomat, Ednan Agaev was the first of the defendants in the OPL 245 trial to take the stand in a crowded courtroom yesterday in Milan, Italy.
Opening his defence, Agaev explained that he started his career for the Soviet Union Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he was a senior official for arms control, took part in nuclear arms negotiations, was a senior official at the UN and Ambassador for Russia to Columbia.
From Court updates monitired by Paparazzi Magazine, Agaev then said knew former President Obasanjo for the first time in the 80s, he campaigned for Obasanjo’s release in the 90s. After Obasanjo’s release he visited Agaev in Columbia. Agaev said he didn’t learn about OPL 245 until 2008 though when working for a Russian oil company. Agaev said he knew the OPL 245 block was revoked because Etete was associated with Malabu, the company owning the block. Agaev claimed Obasanjo said the block was actually intended for Abacha, after Abacha’s death it fell to Etete.
The former Soviet diplomat further revealed that Obasanjo said he had to give the block back to Malabu because of legal mistakes in the revocation. He then Claimed Malabu won in court, but the prosecutors pointed out that actually Malabu lost in court.
Agaev said people tried to politicise the decision but “the main reason was legal”. The prosecutor then confronted Agaev with his FBI interview Agaev said the block was given back to Etete by Obasanjo to shore up political support in the the south of Nigeria.
Agaev said he was introduced to Etete by General Gusau in 2008, Gusau had been the National Security Advisor under President Obasanjo and then later under Goodluck Jonathan. Gusau wanted him to find a Russian oil company investor to deal with Etete and Shell.
Agaev said Gusau introduced him to John Coplestone of Shell. Gusau knew Coplestone because he had been head of the MI6 station in Abuja.
Agaev said he only ever met Etete from Malabu, he was the only person representing them on OPL 245. Gusau wanted to make money from a Russian investor. Gusau had previously helped free 15 Russian hostages held by militants.
Agaev then told the tribunal that his job was only to find an investor. Etete was in charge of negotiating with the Nigerian government, Etete didn’t need any help or contacts from Agaev.
Ednan Agaev went on to describe Shell executives Coplestone and Colegate as intelligence agents. Coplestone head of MI6 in Nigeria, Colegate was in charge of intelligence in Hong Kong. Peter Robinson was in charge of business.
In what was perhaps the big shock in the proceedings, Agaev then contradicted his earlier FBI statement saying now that nobody ever asked for bribes, previously he said oil deals in Nigeria were hard because people asked for kickbacks and the amount of kickbacks kept changing.
Agaev explained the other middleman Emeka Obi had a plan to agree a sale price with Etete, agree a higher price with Eni and Obi would get the difference, the “excess price” but this didn’t work. Agaev says his own commission was to come from Etete.
When Agaev was asked about Granier Deferre’s diagram with money from the deal flowing to “management”. He said he doesn’t know about the diagram but Malabu had no management, Etete always called himself an advisor to Malabu but they had no managers.
Ednan Agaev was then asked about his fellow middleman Obi’s meeting with Gusau, he said he thought Obi wanted to know about the security situation. Obi’s meeting with Diezani Alison Madueke, he vaguely said it was probably about technical issues with OPL 245.
Agaev was then asked whether Shell knew he was being paid a commission. To which he said yes, he had to prove he had a mandate with Malabu. Otherwise Shell employees were under very strict instructions not to discuss OPL 245.
Agaev said he was told by Gusau of the rumoured romantic relationship between Goodluck Jonathan and Alison Madueke.
Gusau also called her “extremely greedy and a crook”.
Agaev said Gusau” was head of the secret services so I assume he knew what he was talking about”.
When the scandal of large scale bribery by top government officials surrounding the acquisition of OPL broke, it could be recalled that Agaev’s alleged role in the deal was reported to be negotiating with Shell on behalf of former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete but that after Etete refused to pay Agaev a claimed $65m for his role Agaev sued in the US and UK. Agaev also reportedly spoke to FBI and Italian authorities.
Ednan Agaev reportedly told prosecutors “I heard from Chief, he claims that he had to pay 400 million, so, if this is true, if he paid 400 million, then most probably the President, as the biggest boss, took at least the half of it.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has denied receiving bribes, calling the claims of bribes as fabricated.
Agaev also reportedly told prosecutors that Etete told him, ‘I can’t pay you, I have to pay Adoke [Mohammed Bello Adoke, then Nigeria’s attorney general] $400 million and all the other people in the Senate and the National assembly’.
Adoke’s also denied receiving money. He went on to dismiss the allegations.
Agaev is a former Russian & Soviet diplomat. He clearly still has friends in high places as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently asked Italy to “be reasonable” and drop charges. Prosecutors called this “at the very least surprising”.
Eni and Shell executives on trial have declined to give evidence. All the defendants deny guilt.