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Tanzanian takes 7 gas firms to court

TANZANIAN businessman Moto Mabanga has filed a landmark commercial dispute against seven giant international oil and gas dealer companies.

He is defending his interest rights in three gas blocks worth 6,951,000,000 US dollars (over 15tril/-) situated offshore in Mtwara Region.

Through his advocate Gabriel Mnyele, the businessman filed the case at the High Court’s Commercial Division in Dar es Salaam against Ophir Energy Plc and Ophir Services Pty Ltd, B.G International Limited and B.G Tanzania Limited, who are registered in England and Wales.

Other defendant companies are Pavillion Energy P.T.Y, which is registered under the laws of Singapore, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, registered under the laws of Netherlands and Medco Energy Global Pte Limited, a company registered and operated under the laws of Indonesia.

Mr Mabanga is seeking for declaration that the acquisitions interests of Block 1, 3 and 4, situated offshore Mtwara coast belonging to Ophir Companies and other defendant oil dealer companies are illegal, fraudulent and conspiratorial.

According to him, such acquisitions seek to pervert the ends of justice and injure the proprietary interests having been done the same in total disregard of his interest in the said blocks. He seeks orders against the defendants that are jointly and severally liable to compensate him 15 per cent of the value of the blocks.

In addition, the businessman is requesting the court to issue a permanent injunction restraining the defendants, their agents and associates present and future from exploiting, investing or engaging in production of gas and oil unless and until he is paid all his dues.

Sometimes in 2004, Mr Mabanga, the plaintiff, was requested by Ophir Companies to work and acquire gas blocks in Tanzania. As a result, thereof, the two Ophir Companies acquired gas blocks 1, 3 and 4 defined and signed PSA agreements with the government of the United Republic of Tanzania.

In consideration of the good work done by the plaintiff, Ophir Energy Plc entered into three consultancy agreements, whereby the two Ophir companies ceded to the plaintiff's 5 per cent interest of each block upon production thereof, thus making a total of 15 per cent interest.

The two Ophir Companies, having procured the said blocks, conspired with B.G International Limited and B.G Tanzania Limited to remove the plaintiff from the companies in order to enter a lucrative farming.

The  two Ophir and two BG companies jointly and together, fraudulently, forcefully and without proper valuation of the plaintiff's interest in the block, ejected him from the said blocks with very meagre compensation compared to the value of blocks which they did not disclose.

As per subsequent sale of interests in blocks by the two Ophir companies to other defendant oil and gas dealer companies, the value of the blocks is USD 6,951,000,000. The plaintiff claimed that he was entitled to 15 per cent of the said amount as per consultancy agreement.

However, the plaintiff alleges that he was compensated USD 7,500,000 only under duress and coercion.

 “The plaintiff avers that based on the subsequent disclosed sales of interest in the block, the value of the said farm in agreement is USD 3, 864, 000, 000,” reads part of the plaint.

Subsequent thereto, the two Ophir companies sold further interest of 20 per cent to Pavillion Energy P.T.Y for the consideration of USD 1,288,000,000.

The said latter company purchased the said interest in total disregard of the plaintiff's interest notwithstanding that it was aware of the same.

“The plaintiff avers that by disregarding his interests on the blocks, (Pavillion Energy P.T.Y) made himself jointly liable to compensate the plaintiff his interest in the block with other defendants,” states another paragraph of the plaint in question.

Sometimes in 2015, being aware of the interest of the plaintiff and in total disregard thereof, Royal Dutch Shell Plc in global acquisition of the two BG Companies' assets, acquired the said 60 per cent interest in Tanzania clandestinely without complying with the law of the land.

It is stated that the company failed, in connivance with another person, to advertise the taking over of the said assets. In that regard therefore, the plaintiff avers that Royal Dutch Shell Plc became jointly liable with other defendants to compensate the plaintiff of his entitlements on the said blocks.

Sometimes in March 2019, the plaintiff became aware of the intended acquisition by Medco Energy Global Pte Limited of shares from the shareholders of Ophir Energy Plc at the tune of USD 511 Million.

The plaintiff protested as the company wanted to acquire the said shares in disregard to his interests in the remaining assets of the two Ophir companies.

Upon intervention by the plaintiff at the Fair Competition Commission, Medco Energy Global Pte Limited was granted a Merger Clearance Certificate subject to an undertaking to honour any subsequent liabilities against the two Ophir defendant companies.

“The plaintiff avers that by virtue of the said undertaking, Medco Energy Global Pte is jointly and severally liable with other defendants to compensate the plaintiff his entitlements,” it is further stated in the plaint of the suit.

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