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Nigeria recovers $85m deposited in Britain in oil licence deal funds

Oil prices

Nigeria has recovered $85 million in funds from an oil licence deal that had been deposited in Britain, the West African country’s attorney general said.

President Muhammadu Buhari has, since taking office in 2015, sought help from several nations to recover money he said was taken from public coffers.

It is not immediately clear who deposited the money in Britain. The money was frozen at the request of prosecutors as a result of an Italian investigation. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by British authorities.

The investigations into the $1.3 billion sale in 2011 of oil prospecting licence (OPL) 245, which could hold more than 9 billion barrels of oil, have involved Italian, Nigerian and Dutch authorities and two of the world’s largest international oil companies.

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It was initially awarded in 1998 to Malabu Oil and Gas before Royal Dutch Shell and Eni were awarded the rights in 2011 for $1.3 billion.

Shell has said it was aware that some of the payments it made to Nigeria for rights to the oilfield would go to Malabu, a company associated with former Nigerian oil minister and convicted money launderer Dan Etete.

“Nigeria had recently recovered the sum of $85 million from the controversial Malabu Restrained Funds from United Kingdom,” said the office of the attorney general, Abubakar Malam, in a statement late on Thursday based on his remarks at an asset recovery event in the capital, Abuja.

The money is part of funds related to OPL 245 payments that have been frozen in bank accounts around the world.

In the same statement, the attorney general’s office said negotiations with Switzerland on the repatriation of $321 million stolen by former military leader Sani Abacha had concluded.

He said a memorandum of understanding would be signed in early December and repatriation of the funds would follow a few weeks later.

Transparency International, a corruption watchdog, has accused Abacha of stealing up to $5 billion of public money during the five years he ran the oil-rich country, from 1993 until he died in 1998.