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General News
Nigerian Crooks Out To Dupe TOR US$48 Million 3/19/2011

The Herald’s preliminary findings into the controversy surrounding a US$48 million payment made by Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) to a company for the supply of crude oil and the emergence of another company claiming ownership of the said crude oil, has revealed that a gang of Nigerians, with their Ghanaian counterparts, are out to defraud TOR, in a massive ‘419’ scheme associated with oil business.

The deal is a fairytale of fake documents, dubious names, wrong telephone numbers and questionable addresses and misrepresentation.

It is clear that monies changed hands and undoubtedly, Dr. Maureen Nwangwu-Iduh, CEO of Diamond Shipping Company Limited who is battling TOR, has been defrauded by oil fraudsters very common in Nigeria and other oil producing countries, according to the March 2011, edition of the UK-based Commercial Crime International bulletin.

The Herald’s probe has revealed that Refinee Petroplus, which supplied the crude oil and got the US$48 million payment, is part of the famous Sahara Group of companies. It was registered in the British Virgin Islands on April 26, 2007, and has its registered office address as Trident Chambers, P.O Box 146, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands but its operations office is on the 3rd Floor, 7 Quai du Mont Blanc, Geneva, Switzerland.

Refinee Petroplus is one of many other subsidiaries in the Sahara Group responsible for lifting and the supply of crude oil. Others include SO Energy, a retail arm of the group operating in Ghana, Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Petroleum Warehouse and Storage Limited, among others.

For instance, Shell has Shell Producing Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), it also has Shell Trading and Shipping Company (STASCO), etc, and this is usually done for purposes of diversification.

Refinee Petroplus is totally different from Petroplus Refinery or Petroplus International which is also located in Geneva -Switzerland. It was Refinee Petroplus which was used by the well-connected Sahara Group in lifting the crude oil from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the Tema Oil Refinery, on August 16, 2010.

The Herald is informed that the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) is presently in possession of receipts and all other documents, including Letters of Credit (LC), on the transaction from NNPC, Refinee Petroplus, Guarantee Trust Bank in Accra and BNP Paribas, said to be one of the largest banks in Europe.

Yvette Ayele Foli, handed over all documents to the BNI, according to our sources within the agency. Impeccable sources within the Sahara Group, has confirmed the handing over of the papers to the BNI, and revealed that the US$48 million payment was a bank-to-bank transaction made between the Guarantee Trust Bank in Accra and BNP Paribas of France, and that Ms. Foli did not receive a cheque of US$48 million from TOR as reported. Our sources insisted that the Guarantee Trust Bank in Accra and BNP Paribas in France and, most especially the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), are the institutions which are properly placed to give details of the transaction and those behind it.

*Regarding the Crude Oil Supply to Tema Oil Refinery in August 2010, below is the chain of the transaction:*

• CONOCO Phillips (An American Oil Company) has some equity in the Brass River crude oil production which is operated by Agip Energy and Natural Resources (AENR) and in which the NNPC also has majority equity.

• CONOCO Phillips issued a tender in 2009 for companies to bid for the lifting rights of its equity barrels of Brass River Crude oil to be lifted in the whole of 2010.

• Sahara Energy Resource Ltd won this tender and the rights to lift Conoco''s Brass equity barrels on a monthly basis for the whole of 201O.

• SAHARA had been lifting and trading these barrels on a monthly basis between January and July 2010 to different oil trading companies and refineries in the international oil trading market.

• In July/August 2010, representatives of Refinee Petroplus had discussions with the management of TOR on the possibilities of supplying crude oil to the refinery as they were aware that the refinery needed crude oil in order to avert a shut-down of the refinery which could also led to fuel shortage in the country.

• After negotiations with TOR, Refinee Petroplus was issued a supply contract for the supply of 600,000 barrels of Brass River Crude with a loading Laycan of August16-17, to be lifted from the AGIP Brass Terminal in Nigeria.

• This transaction was an Freight on Board (F.O.B) transaction which meant that TOR was to send its own vessel; (In this case MT Vergina II) to go and lift the crude oil from the terminal based on the advise by Refinee Petroplus. By this time, the terminal would have been advised by Conoco Phillips (the original equity holder of the crude) of the arrival of such a vessel.

• With the supply contract in place to Refinee Petroplus, Sahara now sells its August barrels from the CONOCO equity to Refinee Petroplus which now sells to Tema Oil Refinery. The transaction was financed by BNP Paribas (one of the largest banks in the world) for Refinee Petroplus while Guarantee Trust Bank here in Ghana financed it for the Tema Oil Refinery.

* NNPC ---------- CONOCO --------- SAHARA ---------- REFINEE PETROPLUS ---------- TOR*

What happened was once the supply agreement was signed with TOR and Refinee Petroplus confirmed its source of crude purchase, Refinee Petroplus advised TOR on which terminal and which date to go and load the crude oil. This was also based on information CONOCO Phillips had passed on to Sahara and which Sahara in turn passed on to TOR.

TOR, after discussing with the managers of its vessel of its availability and readiness to perform a voyage, would then give Refinee Petroplus the vessel particulars and all relevant information on the crew etc, which Refinee Petroplus would pass unto Sahara and Sahara unto CONOCO which must then be passed unto the terminal.

Once the terminal is comfortable with the information on the particulars of the vessel called the ''Q88'' (a questionnaire which must be filled by the managers of the vessel which provides all relevant information; including but not limited to the age, size, last dry dock of the vessel and all other specs of the vessel), the vessel is then given the green light to proceed to the terminal to load the crude oil.

There is therefore, no way that the TOR vessel, and in this case MT Vergina II, would have been received and allowed to load the Brass Crude Oil parcel from the AGIP/ Brass terminal without the above sequence of events described as “stringent check and balances in the oil business,” by oil experts to prevent fraud.

Another interesting thing is the cargo that the other company is claiming to have supplied was a Forcados Blend crude which they also said was loaded in May 2010. But Refinee Petroplus loaded and delivered Brass Crude, a totally different kind of crude oil.

Diamond Shipping Company Limited claimed it supplied Forcados Crude to TOR; Refinee Petroplus insists its crude was Brass Crude. Forcados and Brass, for sale by Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), are two different kinds of crude oil in terms of quality.

The crucial question is whether Diamond Shipping Company Limited has proof of the Letter of Credit or Bank Comfort Letter used to purchase this crude, which bank opened the LC on her behalf and which company she bought the crude oil from.

In all these, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) holds the key to the mystery. More to come

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