An Irish septuagenarian has been arrested by the police in Ireland as part of an investigation into the alleged bribery of Nigerian officials in relation to an energy deal that gave rise to one of the biggest lawsuits in the world.
The culprit, who is connected to the company, Process & Industrial Development (P&ID), allegedly paid a Nigerian official to help secure a contract to convert excess gas from the country’s oilfields into energy, the Irish Times reports.
However, the Nigerian government did not proceed with the project and was later sued in a London court by the company, in a case that had been backed by a United States hedge fund.
In 2017, the court ordered the Nigerian government to pay €5.8 billion (N 2.6 trillion) to the company. With interest, this has since grown to €8.75 billion (N4 trillion) or a quarter of Nigeria’s foreign reserves.
It is believed to be one of the largest sums awarded against a government in history. The judgment also gave P&ID the right to seize Nigerian assets abroad which has caused massive political upheaval in the African country.
The Nigerian government refused to pay, alleging that the gas deal was corrupt from the start and that the project was planned to fail.
Last year, the UK high court delivered a judgment that said Nigeria had established “a strong prima facie case” that the gas deal was “procured by bribes paid to insiders as part of a larger scheme to defraud Nigeria.”
The judgement outlined allegations that P&ID representatives bribed Nigerian government officials, including by diverting €17,000 (N7.9 million) into an official’s bank account as a “contribution” to the cost of his son’s wedding.
The involvement of the police came about as a result of independent inquires by a member of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) into an Irish-based company that was closely linked to P&ID.
The investigation discovered “what, in our opinion, is potential bribery and corruption”, a senior source told The Irish Times.
GNECB detectives arrested the man, who is aged in his 70s, on Monday morning in south Dublin.
He has since been detained on suspicion of conspiracy, contrary to section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, a rarely used provision that allows the police to investigate offences committed outside the State.
The man was released without charge on Monday night while a file was prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“The operation is part of an international investigation in co-operation with Interpol and Nigerian authorities investigating the alleged bribery of Nigerian public officials by Irish nationals,” the Garda said in a statement.
P&ID, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands, was founded by Irishmen Brendan Cahill and Michael Quinn.
Both men had a long history of working together before the Nigerian deal, both in Ireland and abroad.
In 2020, the Nigerian government issued an arrest warrant for an Irish citizen linked to P&ID and detained another Irishman who had been working in the country.