Two oil companies, Tridax Energy Limited and Mezcor Nigeria Limited have threatened to sue an online medium over what they described as a defamatory publication against them in an article published on November 6, 2013.
In a letter written to Sahara Reports Media Group Inc., by lawyers to the companies, the oil firms are demanding a retraction and immediate removal of the said article titled ‘How NNPC, Oil Markets Connive with Swiss Oil Dealers to Rob Nigeria of Billions of Dollars.” Claiming that the companies alongside others
Are “draining Nigeria of billions of dollars of revenue through the sale of crude oil below the market value”; Are involved in “schemes” “such as creating offshore subsidiaries referred to as ‘letterbox companies,’ ship-to-ship transfer to create untraceable paperwork, payment of subsidy money to phantom and non-existing importers, and partnering with politically exposed fraudsters to defraud the country over $6.8 billion from 2009 and 2011”; Are involved in a “Nigerian oil scam” that is “the greatest fraud Africa has ever known.”
Are engaged in a conspiracy to “deny Nigeria billions of naira in tax earnings”; Are part of a larger group of companies purportedly involved in the “siphoning of the nation’s resources through the NNPC and other shady deals by fuel importers in collusion with foreigners, especially Swiss commodity trading firms”;
Are engaged in “fraudulent partnerships”; Are, or are aligned with, Politically Exposed Persons and their fronts” which “are also cashing in on the absence of money laundering legislation in Switzerland to hide their loots”;
Are some of the “worst culprits” of this alleged fraud; Have “received N2.655 billion ($15.9 million) without importing any petroleum products” and that they have “received permits to import products before applying for it”; and Have ties to the Minister of petroleum through her younger brother and unnamed “close associates,” further implying that they are engaging in corrupt activity.
According to the letter written by James M. Wagstaffe, the said article contains numerous false and defamatory statements of fact, which are highly damaging to not only the companies’ reputation but also to one Mr. Amamgbo, a citizen of United State, who though not mentioned directly in the article but was linked as a major stakeholder in the alleged schemes.
The letter stated that it is unlawful to make false and disparaging statements about another person, adding that California Courts have consistently held that false statements impugning a person’s professional reputation are actionable defamation.
“In fact, communications suggesting unprofessional conduct are defamatory per se and require no showing of special injury. Of course, it is also well settled that wrongful accusations of criminal conduct “are among the most clear and egregious types of defamatory statement” recognized by law.
“By this letter and in order to minimize any further damage to our clients’ good names and professional reputations, we demand that you immediately remove the Article, and any other article, blog post, Facebook posting, or similar publication containing these or similar defamatory statements. We further demand that you immediately issue a retraction correcting your errors and that you publish the retraction on the homepage of your website”,
it stated The Article contains numerous false and otherwise defamatory statements of fact. Among other things, the Article states that Tridax, Mezcor, and Mr. Amamgbo: Are “conniving” with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to “rob Nigeria of Billions of Dollars”;