When Mohammed Bello Adoke telephoned JP Morgan

26 August 2021
Characters involved: Mohammed Adoke Bello Aliyu Abubakar

Former Nigerian Attorney General in June 2011 telephoned JP Morgan to arrange transfer of OPL 245 funds from FGN account even though he was no longer a Minister, the Milan court records reveal

by Lorenzo Bagnoli

An internal email exchange between anti-money laundering officers at JP Morgan Chase (JPMC) bank records that a “Mr Adoke”, described in the email as “the former Nigerian Minister of Justice and Attorney General”, sought to transfer $1,092,015,000 from a Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) account, held with the London branch of JPMC, even though he was not a Minister at the time. JPMC refused to act on the transfer proposal. The funds were held in an account set up by the FGN to receive funds from oil multinationals Shell and Eni as part of the deal through which the companies acquired the licence to the controversial OPL 245 oil block in Nigeria in 2011. The funds were ultimately transferred by officials of the FGN to Malabu Oil and Gas, the company that previously held the licence. Malabu is controlled by convicted money launderer Dan Etete who awarded the block to the company when he was oil minister in 1998. The JPMC email, dated 24 June 2011, was entered as defense evidence by ENI in its recent trial in Milan on charges of international corruption related to the OPL 245 deal. The Milan court acquitted the company (together with Shell and other defendants) in March 2021. The judgment has been appealed by the Prosecutor and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is a party to the case. The email, entitled “FGN summary of the facts”, was prompted by the failed transfer of $1,092,015,000 from the FGN account to an account at BSI bank in Switzerland held by Petrol Services Ltd, a company close to the then Italy’s honorary consul in Nigeria, Gianfranco Falcioni, and his Nigerian associates. The transfer was rejected by BSI bank for ‘compliance’ reasons.

The ‘Adoke’ telephone call

The email gives a detailed chronology of JPMC’s business relationship with the FGN in relation to the account. It was written by Simon Lloyd, JPMC’s Executive Director of Anti-Money Laundering and Sanctions Compliance for Europe, Middle East and Africa.


Lloyd’s email log records that the Nigerian cabinet, in which Adoke had served as Attorney General, had been dissolved on 30 May 2011, following the results of a general election. A new cabinet was not fully appointed until 2 July 2011. From 30 May to 2 July, Adoke was therefore out of office. Nonetheless, according to Lloyd, JPMC received a telephone call on 20 June 2011 “from Mr Adoke, the former Nigerian Minister of Justice and Attorney General”. At the time, former Attorney General Adoke was a private citizen, not a government official.


The email records: “Adoke states that FGN would like to give JPM another instruction to make payment to a separate account number in another bank. Mr Adoke proposed that in the absence of a serving Minister of Finance, the instructions would come from the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance”.


JPM declined to act on the reported request by “Mr Adoke”. According to Lloyd: “JPM advised that . . . [it] would need to be instructed by the new Minister of Finance as the authorised representative of FGN in the agreement”. Mr Adoke has stated that he was “on holiday abroad as a private citizen” from 29 May 2011-2 July 2011 and “did not have any dealings with official matters on behalf of the Government of the Federation of Nigeria”.

A forged email?

Adoke’s denial that he acted in an official capacity from 29 May- 2 July 2011 was first made in response to the disclosure of a further email, dated 21 June 2011.


This second email, obtained by the Milan Prosecutor through a Mutual Legal Assistance request to the United Kingdom, was sent from ‘agroupproperties@yahoo.com’ to Bayo Osolake, an employee at JPMC. Attorney General Adoke was in touch with Osalake when the FRN account at JPMC was being set up.


The email, which was sent a day after the telephone call from a ‘Mr Adoke’ that Lloyd recorded in his log of correspondence, was signed “Mohammed Bello Adoke”.


The Resolution Agreements for the OPL 245 deal were attached to email. In an apparent reference to these attachments, Lloyd’s log records that on 21 June JPMC was provided with “details of the settlement between all the parties” by “the Nigerian office of the Attorney General”, adding: “The details of this settlement are not in the public domain”.


Mr Adoke has vigorously denied sending the 21 June email, which he describes as a forgery.


In a complaint to the Nigerian Inspector General of Police, Adoke states that he could not have been the author of the email because (in addition to being on holiday on 21 June) the email was signed by ‘Mohammed Bello Adoke’ whereas all of his correspondence “whether physical or electronic are signed off with the suffix SAN” and at no time had he signed off “any document without using his rank in the legal profession”.


Other documentary evidence from the Milan trial reveals that “agroupproperties@yahoo.com” was the email address provided by Nigerian entrepreneur Abubakar Aliyu when he opened an account with First Bank Nigeria for Novel Properties and Development Company Ltd.


The company is alleged by the Milan Prosecutor to be one of several fronts through which bribes were channelled from the OPL 245 deal to public officials. The Milan judges accepted that more than $500 million were disbursed through Aliyu companies to individuals.

Milan Judges: Email confirms relationship between Adoke and Abubakar

In their judgment, the judges in the Milan trial describe the “agroupproperties@yahoo.com” email as confirmation of “the relations between Minister Adoke and the companies of Alhaj Abubakar Aliyu” – a relationship which is described as proof of “prove a mix of economic interests that is seriously probative from the point of view of the receipt of benefits deriving from the payments to Malabu”.


The Milan judges state that Adoke received over $2 million from the OPL 245 deal. This is denied by Adoke whose London solicitors Gromyko Amedu have stated: “Our client vigorously denies that he received a bribe of $2.2 million or any other sum on account of the OPL 245 Settlement Agreement”.


Abubakar and Adoke are currently being prosecuted by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on money laundering and corruption charges related to the OPL 245 deal. Both deny any wrongdoing.


Although the Milan Court dismissed the charges against Eni, Shell and other defendants, it did not rule out the possibility of offences associated with the OPL 245 field having taken place in Nigeria. It ruled, however, that, if this was the case, it was outside of Italian jurisdiction.


More on Aleph


Nigerian banking documents

Bank accounts of companies receiving Opl245 proceeds


Internal email at JPMorgan bank

Exchanges among JPMorgan bank’s officers about due diligence of Opl245 money transfers


Mutual Legal Assistance Request Italy-UK

Emails and court documents concerning JPMorgan bank transmitted upon request of Milan prosecutors

characters involved

Mohammed Adoke Bello
  • Born on 1 September 1952
  • nigerian  nationality

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Aliyu Abubakar
  • Role Entrepreneur with many friends in nigerian politics
  • Nigerian  nationality

Aliyu Abubakar is a Nigerian businessman with interests in various sectors, the main ones being real estate and oil. Five Nigerian companies controlled by Abubakar – Novel Properties and Dev. Co, Imperial Union Ltd, Megatech Engineering Ltd and A Group Properties – received part of the money which Eni and… Read More

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