September 19, 2019 / 3:19 PM / a month ago

Nigerian court orders firm that won $9 bln case against government to forfeit assets

ABUJA, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A company awarded more than $9 billion in an arbitration case against Nigeria has been ordered by a court in the capital Abuja to forfeit its local assets to the government.

The order comes after two men linked to the company, Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID), pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and tax evasion on the company’s behalf, the court said on Thursday.

The impact on the British Virgin Islands-based firm and its international arbitration award, now worth some 20% of Nigeria’s foreign reserves, was not immediately clear.

P&ID had no immediate comment on the court ruling.

Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) brought 11 individual charges against P&ID and its local subsidiary. The two men, Muhammad Kuchazi and Adamu Usman, pleaded guilty to all the charges on behalf of the company.

The men, both Nigerians, were not personally charged and freely left the court.

While Kuchazi was listed in British court documents as a representative of P&ID in 2009, it was unclear if either man was currently employed by the company. They could not immediately be reached for comment.

The EFCC described Kuchazi as commercial director, and Usman as director of the company’s local subsidiary.

P&ID has previously described the EFCC’s investigation as a “show trial”.

P&ID was set up to execute a 2010 deal with the Nigerian government to build and operate a gas-processing plant in the southeastern port city of Calabar. When the deal collapsed, P&ID took the government to arbitration, eventually winning a $6.6 billion award that has been accruing interest since 2013.

Last month, a judge in London said he would grant P&ID the right to convert the award to a judgment, which would allow it to seek to seize assets from the Nigerian government to collect the award.

The government has said the deal was designed to fail, and called the award “an assault on every Nigerian and unfair.”

With interest payments, the sum now tops $9 billion. (Reporting by Camillus Eboh and Libby George in Lagos; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha and Libby George; Editing by Mark Potter)

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