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General News of Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Source: The Herald

US$48 Million Crude: Nigerian Oil Thieves Exposed!

By Larry-Alans Dogbey

Details of the fraud surrounding the controversial US$48 million Crude Oil continue to emerge, as the owners of the vessel reported to have lifted the oil, MT Vergina II, Tsakos Shipping London Limited, have denied lifting any oil for and on behalf of Diamond Shipping Company Limited, to the Tema Oil Refinery.

In a document cited by The Herald, an official of Tsakos Shipping, described those making the claim that Tsakos Shipping chartered its ship, MT Vergina II, to them, as “fraudsters” because the company does not know anything about that claim of chartering.

The document dated February 24, 2011, was prepared by one Andrew Hawkins, whose telephone numbers were given as +442078028317begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +442078028317 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, +442078028300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +442078028300 end_of_the_skype_highlighting and an electronic mail address stated as

Mr. Andrew Hawkins insisted that the claims by Diamond Shipping Company Limited and the others, that they delivered crude to TOR with MT Vergina II, and therefore, must be paid US$48 million, has no merit.

The Operations Department of Tsakos Shipping London Limited, for instance, noted that although claimants maintain that the vessel loaded at Forcados, MT Vergina II has never loaded in the whole of 2010 at Forcados except Brass where it loaded.

The claim that their cargo quantity was in access of 720,000 barrels was untrue as the maximum the vessel can load is 640, 000 barrels. Besides, the claim that the vessel discharged in September in Tema was untrue as “the cargo was discharged in August, and the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authorities can easily verify this”.

More so, “claimants have given a name of the Master which does not reflect the true Captain on board at the time, and we have never heard of the Captain mentioned. Records showing who the Master was can easily be verified,” the document stated.

Tsakos pointed out that any further confusion surrounding the crude oil can be resolved by contacting Guarantee Trust Bank, the financiers of the cargo for TOR.

“We are in the process of checking the letters that you have given to us as to whether they are genuine. It is indeed obvious that somewhere along the way, money has changed hands, and undoubtedly, the claimants have lost money but it would be in their interests to trace their money and who they paid, rather than innocent parties such as Tema Oil Refinery and the Owners/Managers of Vergina II”, the company said.

In another document from another company called Abibi Energy Ghana, and dated Thursday, February 24, 2011, one Engineer Owen Palmer, who identified himself as President and Chief Executive Officer, wrote to one Deborah J. Eleazar, denying ever chartering the oil shipping vessel MT Vergina II.

The document revealed that a group of persons attempted to load oil using the name of Abibi Energy Ghana, onto MT Vergina II, but were detected by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stopped, and their fraudulent document was forwarded to Abibi Energy Ghana by the NNPC for its comment.

Engineer Owen Palmer’s phone numbers were captured on the paper as 0233203778716 and 00393316153531 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 00393316153531 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, while his email address stated as and his Skype ID stated as owenpalmer1.

Mr. Palmer appears to be based in Italy, according to findings by The Herald as one of the phone numbers and Skype ID were traced to 00393316153531 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 00393316153531 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Debora J. Eleazar, in a short reply, also said: “We do not know anything about this charter whatsoever and have given no permission for anybody to issue any agreement. We shall immediately inform the authorities in the UK about this fraudulent transaction – meantime, please note we do not have our vessels with agency Sectel for over the last 6/8 months”.

Regarding the Crude Oil Supply to Tema Oil Refinery in August 2010, The Herald last week Friday gave the chain of the transaction as:

• CONOCO Phillips (an American Oil Company) has some equity in the Brass River crude oil production which is operated by Agip Energy and Natural Resources (AENR) and in which the NNPC also has majority equity.

• CONOCO Phillips issued a tender in 2009 for companies to bid for the lifting rights of its equity barrels of Brass River Crude oil to be lifted in the whole of 2010.

• Sahara Energy Resource Ltd won this tender and the rights to lift Conoco's Brass equity barrels on a monthly basis, for the whole of 201O.

• SAHARA had been lifting and trading these barrels on a monthly basis between January and July 2010 to different oil trading companies and refineries in the international oil trading market.

• In July/August 2010, representatives of Refinee Petroplus had discussions with the management of TOR on the possibilities of supplying crude oil to the refinery as they were aware that the refinery needed crude oil in order to avert a shut-down of the refinery which could also lead to fuel shortage in the country.

• After negotiations with TOR, Refinee Petroplus was issued a supply contract for the supply of 600,000 barrels of Brass River Crude with a loading Laycan of August16-17, to be lifted from the AGIP Brass Terminal in Nigeria.

• This transaction was an Freight on Board (F.O.B) transaction which meant that TOR was to send its own vessel; (In this case MT Vergina II) to go and lift the crude oil from the terminal based on the advise by Refinee Petroplus. By this time, the terminal would have been advised by Conoco Phillips (the original equity holder of the crude) of the arrival of such a vessel.

• With the supply contract in place to Refinee Petroplus, Sahara now sells its August barrels from the CONOCO equity to Refinee Petroplus which now sells to Tema Oil Refinery. The transaction was financed by BNP Paribas (one of the largest banks in the world) for Refinee Petroplus while Guarantee Trust Bank here in Ghana financed it for the Tema Oil Refinery.

* NNPC ---------- CONOCO --------- SAHARA ---------- REFINEE PETROPLUS ---------- TOR*

What happened was once the supply agreement was signed with TOR and Refinee Petroplus confirmed its source of crude purchase, 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.

Diamond Shipping Company Limited claimed it supplied Forcados Crude to TOR; Refinee Petroplus insists its crude was Brass Crude. Forcados and Brass, for sale by Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), are two different kinds of crude oil in terms of quality.

The crucial question is whether Diamond Shipping Company Limited has proof of the Letter of Credit or Bank Comfort Letter used to purchase this crude, which bank opened the LC on her behalf and which company she bought the crude oil from.