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How Oil Syndicates Planned to Scam Nigerian Top Officials Of $125m Whistleblower Fee

By Our Reporter

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Frantic efforts by syndicates of fake foreign businessmen who attempted to swindle the Nigerian Government through its top officials in shady crude oil deals had suffered a serious setback. 

The alleged fraudsters – Marco A. Ramirez, a wanted American and who has since been on a business expedition in Nigeria; his iniquitous and dubious Mexican business partner, Jose Salazar Tinajero, their Nigerian accomplices through their obscure firm – SAMANO SA DE CV, specialize on, and are very devious in frauds; smuggling; blackmailing of governments and their officials for financial inducement, twisting of facts, arm-twisting and manipulating of the media to gain upper hands against their victims in America, Europe, Asia and lately Africa.

SAMANO, according to Per second News had in May 2015 prior to the first term inauguration of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari alleged that it has discovered about 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s Bonny Light crude oil – the consignment estimated to have cost up to $2.5 billion, abandoned in the various China’s oil storage and ports – in Qingdao, Zhoushan and Rhizao. 

Facts obtained by AFRICAN EXAMINER have it that Ramirez and Salazar are criminal partners, working through SAMANO SA DE CV, a vague business organization registered in Reynosa, Tamaulipas in Mexico as a marketing outfit, but they are known for chain of international criminal commercial transactions and cheats.

The failed oil scam started when the fraudsters faked under the guise of the request of a client in Dominican Republic, who claimed it wanted to buy the crude oil. SAMANO claimed to have contacted the authorities in Nigeria through its representative – Marco A. Ramirez who in turn allegedly got in touch with another Nigerian – Mr. Ahmed Saleh (purported to be his friend) with the intention to “investigate and obtain authorization’’ to participate in the sale of the crude oil at the inception of a new government. 

Ramirez claimed Saleh informed them that after enquiries, the Nigerian government said it was not aware of the crude oil in China ports and that it must be an illegitimate transaction and requested for proof to enable the government investigate it.

Following this, the fake businessmen also claimed that their company, SAMANO was invited by Saleh to Nigeria in August 2019 and a meeting allegedly held between the company’s representatives and the late Chief of Staff to President  Buhari, Mr. Abba Kyari. They claimed to have delivered the evidence of the abandoned crude oil in company of Air Commodore Muhammed Umar.

Findings by AFRICAN EXAMINER showed that among the primary targets of Ramirez’ and colleague was the current Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mele Kyari, among other senior government officials. .

However, the bubble burst when upon the claims by the fraudsters, Mr. Rabiu Suleiman and a former Group General Manager, (Crude Oil Marketing Division) of the NNPC, Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, at different times traveled to China and did not find any oil with Nigeria’s seal or fingerprint. 

Despite a failed fraudulent dealing, Ramirez and his partner turned around, twisted the narrative and resumed the claims that they have assisted the Nigerian Government to unravel her stolen and illegally stored crude oil, therefore, must be rewarded and compensated for their efforts and their firm, especially under the country’s commitment to her whistle blowing policy – which promises 2.5 or 5 per cent reward out of the loots or stolen valuables.  

However, when nothing was forthcoming either from the Nigerian Government or her targeted agency, SAMANO threatened a legal action against the NNPC either in Mexico or London.   

In furtherance to the threat, Ramirez and her partner Salazar, had through their lLawyer, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole (SAN) in a letter dated Thursday, July 23, 2020, written to the Group Managing Director of NNPC, demanding the payment of the whistleblower’s compensation, which amounts to $125 million – base on their claim.

Given his antecedents in and outside Nigeria, Ramirez has very concerned and explosive alleged criminal records. 

A Glance At Ramirez’s Past 

Ramirez according to a sealed indictment by a U.S. court is a notorious fugitive and has been declared wanted in the US since 2012.

Reports said he had been indicted for operating a foreign fraud scheme, counterfeiting a U.S. Federal Immigration programme; used to defraud several nationals, including Nigerians, with over $3 million.

Also, a grand jury in oil-rich Texas filed 13-count charges of money laundering against him, his wife, Bebe and another accomplice, namely, David Perez Jr. in 2016.

Consequent upon his misconducts, Ramirez fled the U.S. and settled in Nigeria. With the support of his accomplices, he penetrated government circles and parades himself as a serious, responsible and reliable American businessman. Following this advantage, Ramirez access and obtain sensitive government information, but later turn around to use the same pieces of information against government officials in Nigeria and abroad to his advantage.

In September 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice wrote to Nigeria, seeking Mr. Ramirez’s extradition so as to face charges in the U.S. for the crimes he allegedly committed in the country.

Since March 2019, Mr. Ramirez, alongside Salazar and their Nigerian accomplice, Francis Ibomor and others at large, have been facing charges of extortion and blackmail. 

Records from the security agencies alleged that the likes of Air Commodore Mohammed Umar and Ahmed Saleh (whom he claimed they are friends) have been defrauded by him to the tune of $45,000.

Besides, Ramirez, AFRICAN EXAMINER findings indicate has been arraigned before two different courts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over alleged criminal conducts. The courts include: the Federal Capital Territory High Court in charge No. FCT/HC/CR/147/2016, and at the Federal High Court, Lagos in Charge No: id/2763/2016.

SAMANO, Ramirez, Salazar and The Nigeria Police 

Investigations revealed that a 23-page interim report, dated April 29, 2019, and signed by DIG Anthony Michael Ogbizi, indicted the fugitives and their firms of many alleged wrongdoings.

The report alleged that Ramirez has no residence work permit; that he first visited Nigeria on the invitation of one Habib Mohammed, who worked at the Nigerian Embassy in New York, to promote the US Visa programme in 2014.

The visit, report alleged enabled him to meet many prominent and well connected Nigerians in public and the private sectors, including Ahmed Saleh – a Kano-based businessman who later became one of his victims. He later defrauded him with the sum of after $45,000.

Mr. Saleh, who provided information and document that nailed them, told the police that shortly after he was introduced to Mr. Ramirez, he started bringing different business proposals and introducing different companies to him.

He said Mr. Ramirez later invited Mr. Salazar into the country after, the Mexican claimed he had documents to show that some Nigerian crude oil stolen in 2015 were in China.

Mr. Saleh, who is well connected within government circles, took Mr. Ramirez and his partner, Mr. Salazar to Air Commodore Mohammed Umar, who he claimed, was knowledgeable about oil matters.

Upon being told about his mission, Commodore Umar, the report established; immediately told the fugitives that  the Nigerian government had already established a committee on recovery of ‘stolen crude oil’ in China, and that it had most of the information it needed.

Again, Mr. Saleh said the Commodore told them that the Chinese government had already indicated interest to buy the crude oil.

Having been disappointed with that information, Messrs Ramirez and Salazar were said to have requested if Mr. Umar could assist them to have a direct allocation of crude oil from Nigeria, the request was turned down.

Still, they were them to the NNPC boss, Mele Kyari who was then the Head of Crude Oil Marketing. But Mr. Kyari told the duo that the possession of a refinery was one of the major requirements from prospective bidders to qualify to bid.

When the NNPC called for bidding, their firm – SAMANO submitted documents alongside others, but in the end failed to qualify.

Police findings confirmed that while it was true that the criminal duo met Mr. Kyari by virtue of his position as head of crude marketing department of the NNPC then, still, the report said; ‘’there is no evidence that Mele Kyari ever received any gift, or promised any benefit to the suspects, or involved in any suspicious transaction with the suspects.”

The security report indicated “There are suggestive influences that the suspects are skilful fraudsters/schemers who do not have any verifiable legal business in operation in Nigeria.”

The police alleged the criminals wanted to blackmail and exploit Mr Kyari’s “gentle disposition” and “patriotic move” to ensure that the actions of Messrs. Saleh and Umar did not drag officials and the government into disrepute.

Ramirez and his cohort according to the report also allegedly threatened to publish damaging reports about activities of top government officials as “a ploy to put fear and pressure” on them so they can succumb to their demands.

The interim report also claimed that official government documents were found in their possession – when Ramirez was arrested in 2019. This prompted the conclusion by the investigators that Ramirez and his firm, SAMANO had become a threat to the national security.

Although, the tarnished impostors are insisting with their counter claims – especially of getting the approvals of the Nigerian key and top officials to recover the country’s stolen crude oil in China. But to believe the claim, might be in the long run despicable, especially, when the past of the main actors are taken into account. 

Similarly, oil bunkering still remains a big challenge in Nigeria. However, the feasibility of Ramirez and his partner’s claim – 48 million barrels being ferried to China has been punctured. 

The oil and gas experts have reasoned and asked:  When daily oil production was below 1.6 million barrels; “Let us accept for the sake of argument that one of these men or the two of them promised that Nigeria would reward them with 5 per cent of the value of the oil if their information is true, does that translate to a commercial agreement? Is that the way a conglomerate like the NNPC would enter into agreement with anyone or company? Why should SAMANO which claims to be an international company not secure legally binding agreement with NNPC before doing anything on its behalf? 



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