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Court orders banks to block Shell’s accounts over alleged $2.7bn oil theft



Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Wednesday granted an interim Mareva injunction known as a freezing injunction directing commercial banks to block accounts belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

The move is aimed at recovering the cash value of more than 16 million barrels of crude oil allegedly diverted by the oil giant from AITEO Eastern E & P Company Limited.

The judge gave the order while ruling on a motion in suit marked FHC/L/CS/52/202 filed by AITEO Eastern E & P Company Limited.

SPDC is listed as first defendant while Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Shell Western Supply and Trading Limited, Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCO) were joined as second, third, fourth, and fifth defendants respectively.

The 20 banks where the Shell companies operate accounts in Nigeria were also joined as respondents in the suit.

READ ALSO: UK court approves lawsuit against Shell by Nigerian farmers over oil spills

Justice Oguntoyinbo directed the banks to “ring-fence any cash, bonds, deposits and all forms of negotiable instruments to the value of $2.7 billion and pay all standing credits to the Shell companies up to the value into an interest yielding account in the name of the court’s Chief Registrar.”

She further directed the Chief Registrar to “hold the funds in trust” pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed by AITEO.

The judge also restrained the defendants or their agents/privies from presenting to the banks “any mandate or instrument for the withdrawal of any money and/or funds standing to the credit of any of the accounts” of the defendants kept/maintained “at any of the named respondent banks “without first preserving/ring-fencing the sum of $1,251,305.5 or its equivalent in any other official currency including but not limited to the naira and/or pound sterling.

The funds, according to her, are the value of the plaintiff’s 1,022,029 barrels of crude oil (at the rate of $79.50 per barrel as stated in the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) letter dated July 8, 2020.”

The judge adjourned hearing in the matter till February 24.

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