THE High Court’s Commercial Division has given two weeks to three foreign gas exploration companies to respond to the application by Tanzanian businessman Moto Mabanga in the 13tril/- gas exploration deal landmark case involving three offshore gas blocks in Mtwara Region.
Judge Barke Sahel gave the order yesterday, directing the three offshore Oil and Gas Giant Conglomerate, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Ophir Tanzania (Block 1) Limited, Ophir Tanzania (Block 3) Limited, Ophir Tanzania (Block 4) Limited and Pavilion Energy Pte.
The businessman further seeks for orders to remove the name of BG Tanzania Limited and add BG International Limited, as third defendant in the main suit and that the court should allow him to file an amended plaint to enable the court determine the real question in controversy.
In the main suit, Mr Mabanga claims to have been frog-marched by the three foreign companies in his own established gas exploration deal and was fraudulently deceived to surrender his interests.
He was allegedly coerced to sign a termination agreement to receive undervalued consideration of 7.5 million USD, thus depriving his rights to own property on fair payment and was forced out of the new corporate set up by xenophobic means because he was an African.
In support of the application in question, Mr Mabanga has filed an affidavit, stating that Royal Dutch Shell of Netherlands has acquired assets of BG Group of companies, including 60 percent BG International Limited interests in the three gas blocks in Southern Tanzania from Ophirs.
“There is an emerging conspiracy between (Ophirs) and Royal Dutch Shell wherein the Royal Dutch Shell feign not to be aware of my interests, the issue of which was sub-judice when they acquired the BG Group PLC interests in Tanzania,” Mr Mabanga states.
He claims in his affidavit that both were determined to use questionable means, to ensure that he was legally contained so that his lawful interests could be thwarted. According to him, he has learnt that the Ophirs formed new companies, that is Ophir Tanzania (Block 1) Limited, Ophir Tanzania (Block 3) Limited, Ophir Tanzania (Block 4) and transferred their entire interest in the said gas blocks, including his five percent shares.
“The said transfers were done clandestinely without involving me in accordance to clause seven of three Consultancy Agreements,” he stated.
The businessman states that BG Tanzania Limited is a shell company whose presence in Tanzania was a mere façade for overseeing the 60 percent interests of UK’s BG International Limited in the Tanzania assets. Apparently, those interests were allegedly acquired by assignment transaction without attracting any capital gains tax to the government of Tanzania.
Through its holding company, BG Group PLC, BG Tanzania Limited sold the 60 percent interests to Royal Dutch Shell, including part of the five percent interests belonging to him, and BG Tanzania Limited was now closing its offices in Tanzania.
He states further that the acquisition of 20 percent interest in the gas blocks by Pavilion Energy Pte has now been completed and such shares included his part of five percent free carry interest in the three gas blocks as per the Consultancy Agreements.
Prior to the filing of the application to have been joined in the suit, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) representatives have been attending the proceedings in a veil, apparently to monitor what is going on since it has already acquired the controlling stake of BG’s 60 percent in the disputed Blocks.
Mr Mabanga claims that he was ignored by RDS Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden, when his lawyers, led by advocate Gabriel Mnyele, cautioned the Oil and Gas giant conglomerate about his case and interest yet to be determined at the Commercial High Court.
Ophir Energy PLC and Ophir Services PTY Limited are alleged not to have disclosed to Mr Mabanga the actual and potential value of oil and gas in the blocks .