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Shell goes on trial for illegal crude shipment

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JUSTICE Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed January 24, 2019, for the commencement of trial in a suit filed by the federal government against Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd, over crude oil shipment.

The suit, number FHC/L/CS/336/16, was filed by a counsel to the federal government, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN).

Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd and its subsidiary, Shell Western Supply & Trading Ltd are defenders in the case in which the federal government is claiming the sum of $406.7 million from the defendants, representing the shortfall of money paid by the company into the federal government account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The money was said to be for crude oil lifted in 2013 and 2014.

In a supporting affidavit, the federal government had accused Shell of not declaring or under-declaring crude oil shipments during the period.

It said that this was following forensic analysis of bills of laden and shipping documents, adding that Shell cheated Nigeria of the revenue.

According to the affidavit, the consortium of experts tracked the global movements of the country’s hydrocarbons, including crude oil and gas.

They identified the companies engaged in the practices that led to missing revenues from crude oil and gas export sales to different parts of the world.

They also revealed discrepancies in the export records from Nigeria with the import records at U.S. ports.

The Federal Government averred that the undeclared shipments between January 2013 and December 2014 brought the total value of the entire shortfall to $406.75 million.

The defendants were said to have failed to respond to a Federal Government letter through its legal representative seeking clarification as to the discrepancies.

The Federal Government is, therefore, seeking a court order to compel the two companies to pay $406.75 million, being the total value of the missing revenue and interest payment at 21 percent per annum.

In addition, it is also asking Shell to pay general exemplary damages in the sum of $406.7 million, as well as the cost of the legal action.

The Federal Government had also sued Chevron, Total and Agip in similar cases before the same court.

Whereas the suit against Shell is slated for commencement of trial on January 24, 2019, the case against Agip has been fixed for adoption of addresses by parties on December 20.

The Federal Government is asking for a total of $12.7 billion over alleged non-declaration of 57 million barrels of crude shipped to the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.

The oil companies are among 15 oil majors targeted by the Federal Government for the recovery of over $17 billion in deprived revenue.

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