ABUJA —A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, granted an interim order awarding ownership of controversial Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL 245, owned by former Minister of Petroleum, Chief Dan Etete, to the Federal Government, pending conclusion of investigation and prosecution of oil giants allegedly involved in the $1.2 billion Malabu oil bloc fraud. Oil bloc OPL 245 is regarded as one of the biggest oil blocs in Africa. Trial judge, Justice John Tsoho made the order following an ex-parte motion the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, filed before the court. The court directed the Federal Government to take possession of the disputed oil bloc pending conclusion of investigation and prosecution of Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Ltd; Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd; Nigeria Agip Exploration Ltd; Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and other individuals named in connection with acts of conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering. The court ordered the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR to manage OPL 245 on behalf of the Federal Government. EFCC in the suit told the court that its investigations revealed that Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd and SPDC secured OPL 245 through fraudulent scheme involving high scale bribery and corruption by top management of the company. In a 21-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one of its operatives, Mr. Ibrahim Ahmed, EFCC stated: “That Italian Police have also conducted extensive investigation on the fraud allegedly committed by Shell Nigeria, Agip and Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd culminating in a criminal charge at the ordinary Court of Milan. “That the Italian Police in the charge are prosecuting Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Eni Spa and one Scaroni, who was its Managing Director; Descalzi was also the General Manager Exploration of Eni. Copy of the charge is hereby attached and marked as exhibits EFCC 4. “Those also being prosecuted are one Casula and Armana, who were senior executives of Nigeria Agip Oil Company and one Pegano, who was the Managing Director of Nigeria Agip Oil Companies; one Dan Etete (former Minister of Petroleum) and other co-conspirators.” EFCC stressed that though it initially preferred charges against Etete and seven others, the government had concluded plans to also charge Shell Nigeria and Nigeria Agip Exploration with conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money laundering.