Priti Patel sought to publicly intervene three times on behalf of an offshore company which has been accused in a British court of obtaining a £100m contract from the Nigerian government through corruption.
She repeatedly backed the company, Process & Industrial Development (P&ID), a British Virgin Islands-registered gas company, in its long legal dispute with the Nigerian government over a gas processing plant.
Ms Patel’s intervention in the court case took place before she was appointed home secretary by Boris Johnson. She was joined in supporting the company by Shanker Singham, a prominent fellow Brexit advocate, who is now a government trade adviser, in the bitterly contested legal action.
P&ID had an agreement with Nigeria to build a massive plant to process natural gas. No work, however, was carried out on the plant. The company blamed the government for not supplying the gas; the government claims the contract was part of a fraudulent scheme.
P&ID had won compensation of $10bn over the failed deal. But the Nigerian government are appealing against the judgment, claiming that massive bribes had been paid to secure the contract.
P&ID denies any wrongdoing and holds that the Nigerian government had invented the corruption allegations in an effort to avoid paying compensation and to delay the seizure of assets.
Ms Patel first publicly supported P&ID in an article for the newspaper City AM in November 2018, saying that Nigeria “must honour its obligations to companies like P&ID” and pay the firm “almost $9bn” (as the sum in legal action was at that stage). She condemned the further legal action by the Nigerian government as a “running scandal”, “obstinate”, and “flouting international law and convention”.
In May last year, Ms Patel wrote an introduction to a pamphlet by Shanker Singham which also backed P&ID against Nigeria. The pamphlet had been produced by a consultancy firm run by Mr Singham, called Competere.
The same month Ms Patel co-wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph newspaper with Mr Singham about post-Brexit aid and trade, offering support once again for P&ID, and an apparent warning to Nigeria on the consequences for its alleged failure to adhere to laws.
The article said: “The erosion of Nigeria’s commitment to the rule of law is highly worrying. Currently, Nigeria is a defendant in multiple investor disputes, including with telecoms firm MTN; an energy project with P&ID; and a hydroelectric contract with Sunrise Power. In the P&ID case, Nigeria owes the company over $9bn, due to Nigeria’s failure to honour a gas supply contract.”
It continued: “The UK’s national interest is best-served by an open system that encourages free trade, protects property rights, and upholds the rule of law. Our development strategy and our independent trade policy post-Brexit can be harnessed to ensure maximum value for the British taxpayer.”
There were already recurring allegations of corruption in Nigeria over the deal when Ms Patel and Mr Singham expressed their support for P&ID in the second article.