“Mr. Shasore SAN, has not, in my judgment, been shown to be corrupt. His actions are inconsistent with Nigeria’s theory that he was.”
Justice Robin Knowles of the Commercial Courts of England and Wales, on Monday, rejected the corruption allegation levelled against a former Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Olasupo Shasore, in the $11bn Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID) Limited arbitration award case won by Nigeria.
The federal government had alleged that Shasore did not give his best to defend the country’s interest in the case, but rather kept pushing for settlement, which according to the government had suggested that he was compromised.
It had further alleged that Nigeria would not have been enmeshed in the legal tussle if the former Attorney General of Lagos State had played his role transparently, without corruption.
In 2014, Mr Shasore was appointed as counsel for Nigeria in the arbitration leading to the legal tussle considering his expertise in the legal profession and his position as a former president of the Lagos Court of Arbitration.
However, in his judgement, on Monday, Justice Knowles said: “Mr. Shasore SAN, has not, in my judgment, been shown to be corrupt. His actions are inconsistent with Nigeria’s theory that he was,” just as he cited four examples to back his argument.
The judge explained: “Nigeria contends that Mr. Michael Quinn gave false evidence in the Arbitration and that P&ID colluded with Mr. Shasore SAN, as Nigeria’s advocate in the Arbitration, to ensure that he did not challenge that false evidence and he was involved in preventing or hindering Nigeria from putting up a proper defence. Reference is made to his not seeking documents and to delays.
“Neither party called Mr. Shasore SAN as a witness at the hearing before me. As far as I am aware, he has not sought independently to provide an account to the Court. First, his advice to Nigeria to investigate, and allow expert evidence to be obtained, and to proceed in a timely fashion, was sound and constant. Second, he assisted Nigeria to succeed in its applications to the Nigerian Court.
“Third, his participation in the various settlement discussions helped reduce the figures. Fourth, a review of the transcript of the hearing on liability shows repeated robust challenges by him of P&ID, and indeed of the Tribunal; and it is impossible to read pages 55-59 and 68-71 of that transcript as other than properly attempting through argument to secure an outcome in favour of Nigeria.
“On the other hand, the account given in this judgment shows that responsibility for failures to obtain evidence and to avoid delay lay rather with many ministers and officials, whom Mr. Shasore SAN and others (including Stephenson Harwood and Mr Cordara QC at one stage) pressed repeatedly.”
Continuing, he noted that “In a “statement of facts and documents concerning bribery”, prepared by Nigeria, it is alleged that a payment of $300,000 by Mr Shasore SAN to Mr. Ukiri was a corrupt payment to Mr Ukiri in return for which Mr Ukiri (who did not do any work on the P&ID case) “acted as one of Mr Shasore’s conduits in leaking [Nigeria’s Internal Legal Documents]”, and in particular by the email of 28 October 2014 in which Mr Ukiri sent to Mr Adebayo such a document. There is not the evidence before me at this trial to substantiate this. Mr Shasore had just been paid more than US$1 million by Nigeria for his legal work.
“The payment was to his partner in a legal practice. Nothing links Mr Ukiri’s email with the payment or shows why Mr Shasore SAN should go about things in this way if (which I do not accept has been established at this trial) he was behind P&ID receiving copies of Nigeria’s Internal Legal Documents.
“I add that in my view, Nigeria (and specifically Mr Malami SAN, the Attorney General) did not in truth believe Mr Shasore SAN was corrupt. On 21 November 2017 Mr Shasore SAN was engaged by Nigeria to represent the Ministry of Power in a $2.4bn arbitration claim by Sunrise Power and Transmission Co. His appointment was approved by Mr Malami SAN on 6 March 2018 and formally confirmed by Mr Malami SAN on 18 March 2018. On 1 September 2021 Mr Malami SAN approved the engagement of Mr Shasore SAN’s firm to act for Nigeria in a second arbitration brought by Sunrise, resulting from Nigeria’s failure to comply with the settlement agreement. The agreed fee was up to US$1.15 million.
“Mr Malami SAN has not explained to this Court how these events are consistent with a belief on his and Nigeria’s part that Mr Shasore SAN had been corrupt, in his professional work for Nigeria in the Arbitration against P&ID.”