Business Irish

Monday 14 October 2019

P&ID hits out at 'smears' in $9bn battle with Nigeria

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo: Reuters
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo: Reuters

David Chance

An Irish company that recently won a $9bn (€8.2bn) judgment against the Nigerian government has dismissed claims that it bribed a government lawyer as "smears" and a "sham" aimed at avoiding the payment of money owed to it.

The Nigerian government said it was seeking information about payments made to Grace Taiga, a government lawyer, by a company associated with P&ID Group, which was recently awarded damages by the London High Court in a suit over a huge gas plant contract, Bloomberg reported.

P&ID, a company run by Irish businessman Brendan Cahill after his partner in the firm, Michael Quinn, died, said in a statement that Ms Taiga had reached out to it as "an elderly woman suffering from diabetes and life-threatening kidney problems" who did not have the funds to pay for her treatment.

"As practising Christians and proud Irishmen, Brendan and the late Michael Quinn had a long history of supporting people in need," the company said in a statement.

The long-standing dispute between P&ID and the Nigerian government over a contract awarded to the company to build a natural gas refinery that would be supplied with feedstock by the government reached the London High Court in August, where an award was made in favour of the business.

Bloomberg reported that Nigerian prosecutors said they had evidence of two bank transfers totalling $20,000 made by Dublin-based Industrial Consultants (International) Ltd - part of the P&ID group of companies - to Ms Taiga, who as a lawyer oversaw the award of the gas plant contract.

It said the payments were made in 2017 and 2018 from an Industrial Consultants account at Allied Irish Banks and that they were labelled as medical costs, something that P&ID did not dispute. "The aid was generously provided after Grace, a retired civil servant living on a Nigerian state pension, reached out to Brendan in desperation," P&ID said in a statement, which criticised Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, a former major general who has been in power since 2015 and is in his second time in office after he seized power in a coup in 1983.

The judgment by the London court allowed P&ID to start seizing Nigerian assets to cover the value of the award, which is equivalent to around a fifth of the west African country's foreign exchange reserves.

P&ID, Mr Cahill and Mr Quinn have had long-standing business dealings in Nigeria, ranging from defence contracts to energy.

Michael 'Mick' Quinn, who passed away in 2015, was born in Drimnagh and was the one-time manager of Twink and friend of Albert Reynolds.

The two Irish entrepreneurs are credited with bringing in the technology to kickstart the domestic Nigerian shipping and oil support industry.

P&ID had won a series of judgments against the Nigerian government, and the London court ruling in August saw it turn down an appeal against an earlier tribunal ruling in favour of the company.

The company had pledged to deliver 2,000MW of electricity from the plant in a country of 200 million people, where only around a third of its power capacity is regularly working, despite the fact that it has Africa's largest reserves of oil.

As well as investigating the payments to Ms Taiga, Bloomberg reported that the Nigerian anti-corruption agency has expanded its probe into the deal by making formal requests for assistance from Irish law enforcement and the UK's National Crime Agency, according to Ibrahim Magu, head of the Nigerian agency.

As part of the actions by the Nigerian government, an Irish citizen who worked for Mr Quinn has been arrested and charged and remains in custody.

P&ID termed the Nigerian government's legal actions "a half-day 'kangaroo court trial' where the defendant (P&ID) received no communication, no notice, no documents, and had no representation, and the only witnesses had been held illegally in Nigeria under duress for the prior two weeks".

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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