$9.6b Judgment: Report Exposes P&ID, Danjuma’s Link
With the dust raised over the $9.6 billion judgment debt awarded to Process and Industrial Development Ltd (P&ID) yet to settle, another controversy over ownership of the project has surfaced.
Billionaire businessman Gen. Theophilus Danjuma has been linked to the deal.
A report by Businessweek quoted the one-time Minister of Defence as claiming that he committed $40 million to the takeoff of the project.
P&ID, registered in the British Virgin Islands, won a contract to end gas flaring in the Niger Delta. Its chairman, Michael “Mick” Quinn, an Irishman, operated in Nigeria for decades, mostly as a military contractor.
In the report, titled: Is One of the World’s Biggest Lawsuits Built on a Sham? Danjuma was quoted by Businessweek as saying that the project was originally his idea, and that one of his companies, Tita-Kuru Petrochemicals Ltd., spent $40 million preparing it.
The report added that the Irishman was a consultant, using Danjuma’s funds and office space and that when Quinn applied for the contract for himself, Danjuma was upset.
Gen. Danjuma was quoted as saying that “my consultant was going to steal my project,” and recalled being promised a share of P&ID in return for his initial investment, but added that he hadn’t heard from the company in years. The report added that P&ID’s spokesperson declined to comment on Danjuma’s involvement or any other matters raised in the story.
How it all started
It all began in 2008 when the Nigerian government said it would end flaring by using oilfield gas to generate electricity. The minister of petroleum resources acknowledged that the challenge would be “enormous.” Converting gas requires it to be captured, transported, refined, and piped back to power plants and onto the grid.
Officials struggled to persuade big multinationals to invest in the required infrastructure, so concessions were granted to 13 smaller companies, some virtually unknown. One was Process and Industrial Developments Ltd., or P&ID, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands but had no website or track record.
Its chairman was Michael “Mick” Quinn knew powerful people, including the petroleum minister, who guaranteed P&ID a 20-year supply of “wet,” or unrefined, gas for a plant the company would build.
The raw material would be supplied for free, to be treated and returned at no cost. P&ID would instead profit from the byproducts, butane and propane. Everyone stood to benefit, not least the villagers whose homes would be lit by electricity rather than the wan glow of flaming methane.
Then the plan fell apart. The government failed to secure any waste gas from oil companies, let alone link up the necessary pipeline, and the plant was never built. In 2012, P&ID notified the oil ministry that it was suing for breach of contract in a London arbitration forum.
According to the Bloomberg report, after a set of closed legal proceedings, judges awarded P&ID $6.6 billion, one of the biggest amounts a company has won from a sovereign state. When Nigeria dragged its feet on payment, P&ID teamed up with a hedge fund and moved the case to public courts, where it could ask judges to seize state assets, including bank accounts and cargo ships.
In the summer of 2018, a man who’d worked for Quinn contacted Joseph Pizzurro, a veteran New York lawyer hired by Nigeria to lead its defense in the U.S. The caller wanted to talk about the P&ID case. “I don’t think it’s genuine,” the man said, according to an account he gave Bloomberg Businessweek on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety.
He told Pizzurro that Quinn had conspired with officials to profit from government projects that were doomed from the start and that P&ID was one of at least three such lawsuits involving Quinn. The caller couldn’t provide enough evidence to substantiate his claims, though, and he didn’t contact Pizzurro again.
Last month, P&ID won a ruling from a London judge allowing the firm to start seizing Nigerian assets. Hailed as a vindication by Quinn’s company, it caused an outcry in Nigeria. Finance minister said at a news conference that the size of the award, which had risen above $9 billion with interest, meant all Nigerians would pay a price. The justice ministry opened a corruption investigation into how the gas plant deal was struck. “The contract was designed to fail right from inception,” Attorney-General Abubakar Malami told reporters. If the Nigerian government is right, P&ID was an audacious scheme that had made unwitting accomplices of legal professionals, financial institutions, and politicians around the world.
The company and its founders remain elusive. But there are lists of unanswered questions about the firm: Where are its offices? How many people does it employ? How did such a tiny company win such a large concession? Quinn isn’t around to answer them; he died of cancer in 2015. But a close examination of his career, drawn from public records, leaked documents, and interviews with friends and former associates, shows that P&ID wasn’t the only Quinn project to end in disappointment, lawsuits, and corruption allegations. It was just the largest—the one that was supposed to provide his biggest payday.
Unraveling Michael “Mick” Quinn
According to the Businessweek report, at some point in the ’70s, Quinn started working in Nigeria, either as an oil trader or a financier of cement deals, depending on which of the scattered accounts of his life you believe.
He began profiting from a construction boom taking place in Lagos, which was then expanding with such chaotic abandon that hundreds of cement-bearing cargo ships were lined up at port waiting to dock.
He kept working in Ireland, too. In 1979 he and a partner, Brendan Cahill, formed an umbrella company with the resolutely dull name Industrial Consultants (International) to oversee their interests. They began working with the government, for example getting a public grant worth $450,000 to start a videocassette factory near Dublin. The project went bust within two years.
Quinn’s business drew on some powerful allies dating to his show band days. One of the closest was Albert Reynolds, a former music hall impresario who was elected to Parliament in 1977 and became prime minister in 1992. Two years after being elected PM, Reynolds was promoting Kent Steel, one of Quinn’s companies, as a potential savior of Irish industry. Kent had recently won three million Irish pounds (about $4.3 million at the time) from the European Union to explore cleaner technology for making steel—potentially a huge boon. Instead, the project produced nothing but some sketches and a bunch of debris.
Joe McCartin, then a member of the European Parliament, says he raised concerns with an EU official that the deal was a scam and was told, “Don’t worry. Your prime minister, Albert Reynolds, knows all about the project.” The EU did eventually start a probe into the grant, and McCartin, who’s now retired, says its investigators showed him a letter from Irish prosecutors relaying that a fraud had been committed but that they couldn’t identify the perpetrators. The probe was eventually closed without penalty; the EU refused to fulfill a freedom of information request about the case, citing privacy rules. Reynolds passed away in 2014.
Quinn’s name came up again during a nationwide corruption inquiry in Ireland. The Mahon Tribunal, as it was eventually known, lasted for 14 years, compiling evidence of graft on an epic scale. Quinn was called as a witness in June 2007, one of the few times he ever spoke on the record. The tribunal wanted to know more about relationships Industrial Consultants had with Frank Dunlop, a shady lobbyist, and Liam Lawlor, a corrupt Republican MP who’d resigned in disgrace before being killed in a 2005 car crash outside Moscow.
Quinn denied knowledge of invoices that bore his company’s name—payments for golf fundraisers, he guessed—and said he thought his signature had been forged on checks. He had no recollection of many of his dealings with Dunlop. “You are a singularly unhelpful witness,” Alan Mahon, the presiding judge, told him. “What you are telling us is nothing, absolutely nothing.” The tribunal later found that tens of thousands of pounds had flowed from Quinn’s companies to Lawlor, but Quinn wasn’t recalled to the stand, and neither he nor Industrial Consultants faced any action.
By then, Quinn had developed a fearsome reputation. Several former associates told Businessweek they were scared to speak on the record about him, because they believed he had ties to Irish paramilitaries; one said Quinn told him his father had been in the original Irish Republican Army in the 1920s.
Throughout the 2000s, Quinn lived a kind of double life, divided between Nigeria and a comfortable suburban house near Dublin. At home he was Mick from Drimnagh, living with his wife, Anita, who’d been his childhood sweetheart, and their two Doberman pinschers. On Tuesday nights he’d drop Anita off at bingo, then pick up fish and chips for dinner.
Life in Nigeria was very different. The country’s freewheeling capitalism was fraught with risk and opportunity.
Military rule ended in 1999, but democratic Nigeria was proving just as restive and complex. There were tribal uprisings in the Niger Delta and kidnappings and religious conflict elsewhere.
One of the few people who would speak on the record about Quinn’s life in Nigeria is Neil Murray, a friend of 30 years who was involved in several Quinn projects there.
“Mick knew Obasanjo. He knew Yar’Adua,” Murray told Businessweek reporter, referring to former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. “He knew everyone.”
Among the projects Murray was involved in was a contract to repair and upgrade 36 British-made Scorpion tanks at an abandoned plant at Bauchi, in the dusty heart of Nigeria. It had all the hallmarks of Quinn’s deals in the country: complexity, misdirection, and a substantial payday for the middleman. “There was a subsequent contract, and a subsequent contract, and a subsequent contract,” Murray said. “It was an ongoing process.”
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