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Nigeria’s Lekoil reaches deal to keep oilfield after loan fraud

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LAGOS, Jan 21 (Reuters) – Nigerian oil firm Lekoil has reached a deferred payment deal to keep ownership of an oilfield, the company said in a statement on Tuesday, after it discovered the loan it wanted to use for the purchase was fraudulent.

Lekoil shares plummeted on the London stock market last week after finding that a $184 million loan it had announced from the Qatar Investment Authority was a “complex facade” by individuals pretending to represent the QIA.

Tuesday’s statement said Lekoil has agreed to make final payments totalling $9.6 million to Optimum Petroleum Development Company, the operator of the OPL 310 oilfield, by 2 May.

The companies also agreed to defer to July 2020 Lekoil’s need to prove it can fund 42.86% of drilling costs.

“We remain excited about the opportunities of OPL 310 and are focused on securing the necessary funding under the revised schedule,” said Lekan Akinyanmi, Lekoil’s chief executive.

“We are grateful for the support and commitment shown by our partner Optimum,” he said.

The audacious scam has casts doubt on Nigeria’s hopes that its indigenous oil and gas producers can fill the gap left by international oil majors such as Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp, which are trying to sell Nigerian assets to focus on projects elsewhere.

(Reporting by Libby George in Lagos; Writing by Paul Carsten; editing by David Evans)

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