Oando solicits disassociation with Ibori’s case

WORRIED by the negative impact of being linked in the criminal case against the former Governor of Delta, James Onanefe Ibori, who is currently serving 13-year jail term in the United Kingdom, Oando Plc has officially written to the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters Rose Court, dissociating the company from the ongoing confiscation hearing and proposing claim for a judicial review.
In a letter by DLA Piper UK LLP, Oando’s Solicitors, dated September 18 and addressed to the Director of Prosecution, the oil firm, noted that, though it has no interest in the assets under dispute, the claimant (Oando) proposes to bring the claim as a result of the defendant’s (Prosecution’s) persistent and unnecessary, and to date inadequately reasoned, effort to mount its case against Mr. Ibori in a manner, which has already caused and continued to inflict upon the claimant, an innocent third party, catastrophic financial and reputational damage.
Arguing that the defendant’s prosecution of the confiscation proceedings deliberately and avoidably invites enormous irreparable damage to a business unconnected to the proceedings in train, the oil firm explained that the claimant (via its 95 percent owned subsidiary Oando Energy Resources inc) is in the midst of raising capital in connection with a proposed flotation on the Toronto Stock Exchange in connection with a $1.7 billion acquisition of oil and gas assets for which it has paid a no-refundable deposit of $435 million, a transaction that is contractually bound to complete by November 30 or lose its deposit.
Part of this process, the letter stated, involves conducting due diligence on the standing of Oando and the issuing of prospectus.
“The implication of Oando in any suggestion of misconduct or wrong-doing at any point, but particularly at such as sensitive juncture in its commercial activities, would, as we set out in our correspondence of September 13, 2013, inevitably result in serious adverse consequences for the claimant and its share price generally elsewhere,” the letter reads.
Meanwhile, on September 16, on the first day of the confiscation proceedings, leading counsel for the Crown opened the case and explained in open court that Mr. Ibori had asserted ownership of a large part of Oando and went on to explain that, “the Crown will assert that Oando is a company where Ibori has hidden assets.”
But the oil firm has described the claims as alarming and impossible to fathom for a number of reasons, including lack of credible evidence to support the prosecution’s assertion that hidden assets are located within Mr. Ibori’s limited dealings with Oando. Rather, it argued that the best case that can be made to support such as assertion is exceptionally weak.
However, despite its apparent case to the contrary, and the lack of any proper evidence to support its demanding stance, the prosecution has now introduced Oando as a part of the confiscation proceedings. The consequences, it noted, have already been extremely dramatic, including significant press reporting of the prosecution’s statement. While adding that the Crown’s comments have also had corresponding devastating impact in the financial markets in which Oando operates, the letter revealed that the firm’s share price on the Nigerian Stock Exchange has suffered a 21 percent loss in value over the last few days. While the company is said to have lost $ 100 million of its market capitalization as a result, in Toronto, its shares have suffered a 15 percent loss in value, with fear that the total loss could run to the millions of dollars worldwide.
Based on these facts, the firm contends that the prosecution is taking a blinkered view of the consequences of its own statements in open court, without any proper regard to the position of Oando, a third party who has cooperated fully with the prosecution and who has been thrust into unjustified prominence in relation to the case by the prosecutions own action.
“In these circumstances, it is our view that the defendant has signally failed to act fairly to the claimant and has failed to explain its extremely damaging stance with anything approaching sufficient reasons and in consequence has caused potentially catastrophic interferences with the claimant’s private property interest,” it reads.
The firm has, therefore, invited the defendant (prosecution) to confirm it will clarify precisely what its case in respect of Oando is; and, in the event there is any wide involvement asserted, it will provide such evidence to make clear how such involvement is maintained, or refrain from making public assertions in the course of the confiscation proceedings against Ibori, which may indicate Oando is implicated in such proceedings.