By Clara Nwachkwu with Agency Report
Indigenous oil and gas group, Sahara Energy has absorbed self from any culpability in the $48m Tema Oil Refinery, TOR, crude supply controversy.
In a response to Vanguard enquiries, the group said in a test message, “Sahara Energy holds its professional reputation in high esteem and under no circumstance, were we involved in any act of fraud, as this will show in any investigation that will be carried out.”
It added, “BNI has since carried out investigations and found all allegations false and misleading,” without giving further details.
The Herald’s preliminary findings into the controversy surrounding a US$48 million payment made by Tema Refinery to a company for the supply of crude oil and the emergence of another company claiming ownership of the said crude oil, has revealed that a gang of Nigerians, with their Ghanaian counterparts, are out to defraud TOR, in a massive ‘419’ scheme associated with oil business.
According to reports, “the deal is a fairytale of fake documents, dubious names, wrong telephone numbers and questionable addresses and misrepresentation,” which made the UK_based, Commercial Crime International to conclude in its March 2011 bulletin that the refinery has been defrauded by oil fraudsters.
The Herald’s probe has revealed that Refinee Petroplus, which supplied the crude oil and got the $48 million payment, is part of the famous Sahara Group of companies, but the group heatedly denies any
Records reveal that Refinee Petroplus was registered in the British Virgin Islands on April 26, 2007, and has its registered office address as Trident Chambers, P.O Box 146, Road Town, Tortola, British
Virgin Islands but its operations office is on the 3rd Floor, 7 Quai du Mont Blanc, Geneva, Switzerland.
Refinee Petroplus is one of many other subsidiaries in the Sahara Group responsible for lifting and the supply of crude oil. Others include SO Energy, a retail arm of the group operating in Ghana,
Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Petroleum Warehouse and Storage Limited, among others.
The report however, distinguishes Refinee Petroplus from Petroplus Refinery or Petroplus International which are also located in Geneva, Switzerland. It was Refinee Petroplus, which was used by the
well_connected Sahara Group in lifting the crude oil from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to the Tema Refinery, on August 16, 2010.
The Herald is informed that the Bureau of National Investigations, BNI, is presently in possession of receipts and all other documents, including Letters of Credit, LC, on the transaction from NNPC, Refinee Petroplus, Guarantee Trust Bank in Accra and BNP Paribas, said to be one of the largest banks in Europe.
Yvette Ayele Foli, handed over all documents to the BNI, according to our sources within the agency. Impeccable sources within the Sahara Group, has confirmed the handing over of the papers to the BNI, and revealed that the US$48 million payment was a bank_to_bank transaction made between the Guarantee Trust Bank in Accra and BNP Paribas of France, and that Ms. Foli did not receive a cheque of US$48 million from TOR as reported.
Our sources insisted that the Guarantee Trust Bank in Accra and BNP Paribas in France and, most especially the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, are the institutions which are properly placed to give details of the transaction and those behind it.
The report also said that under the supply agreement, Refinee Petroplus advised TOR on which terminal and which date to go and load the crude oil. This was also based on information CONOCO Phillips had passed on to Sahara and which Sahara in turn passed on to TOR.
TOR, after discussing with the managers of its vessel of its availability and readiness to perform a voyage, would then give Refinee Petroplus the vessel particulars and all relevant information on the crew etc, which Refinee Petroplus would pass unto Sahara and Sahara unto CONOCO which must then be passed unto the terminal.
Once the terminal is comfortable with the information on the particulars of the vessel called the ‘Q88’ (a questionnaire which must be filled by the managers of the vessel which provides all relevant information; including but not limited to the age, size, last dry dock of the vessel and all other specs of the vessel), the vessel is then given the green light to proceed to the terminal to load the crude oil.
There is therefore, no way that the TOR vessel, and in this case MT Vergina II, would have been received and allowed to load the Brass Crude Oil parcel from the AGIP/ Brass terminal without the above sequence of events described as “stringent check and balances in the oil business,” by oil experts to prevent fraud.
Another interesting thing is the cargo that the other company is claiming to have supplied was a Forcados Blend crude which they also said was loaded in May 2010. But Refinee Petroplus loaded and delivered Brass Crude, a totally different kind of crude oil.