After welcoming the conclusion of a loan agreement with the Qatari sovereign wealth fund at the beginning of the month, the Nigerian oil company now claims to be the victim of « an attempted fraud ».
The listing of Lekoil shares on the London Stock Exchange was suspended on Monday 13 January after the Nigerian company’s management announced it had discovered the fraudulent nature of a recent $184 million loan agreement signed with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). In early January 2020, the company, which specializes in oil exploration and production, had told shareholders that it would receive a loan from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund – which manages nearly $350 billion in assets – to develop its main exploration site (known as Ogo) off the Nigerian coast. This announcement seems to have surprised the main interested parties since, in the wake of the Lekoil communiqué published on 2 January, representatives of the Qatari fund approached the oil operator to question the validity of the agreement. The suspicion now relates to the consultancy company mandated by Lekoil to act as intermediary between the Nigerian and Qatari, Seawave Invest, an entity registered in the Bahamas and which claims to « specialise in cross-border transactions, particularly in Africa »). According to Lekoil, Seawave introduced him to people « claiming to be from the QIA » to discuss the loan in return for $600,000 in commissions. However, nothing would have been paid to « the alleged counterparty », Lekoil stated in its press release, which concluded by stating that « the company will contact without delay the competent authorities in a number of jurisdictions regarding what appears to be an attempt to defraud Lekoil ».
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One thing is certain, however: the surprise announcement by the Nigerian company did not go down well with market operators, who heavily punished Lekoil shares when trading resumed on Tuesday: at mid-day, the stock was down 70% compared to the previous closing.