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Ex-NNPC lawyer faces 25 years imprisonment in US for $2.1m swiss bribe, tax evasion

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Ex-NNPC lawyer faces 25 years imprisonment in US for $2.1m swiss bribe, tax evasion

A Nigerian lawyer, Paulinus Okoronkwo, residing in Valencia, has been indicted by the FBI on multiple charges relating to an alleged $2.1 million bribe he received during his tenure at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The bribe was reportedly linked to negotiating favorable drilling rights for a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned oil company.

Okoronkwo, who practices immigration and personal injury law from a Koreatown office, faces a five-count indictment, including charges of engaging in monetary transactions from unlawful activities, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice.

As part of his role as the general manager of NNPC’s upstream division and a dual citizen of the US and Nigeria, Okoronkwo was entrusted with a fiduciary duty to NNPC.

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Reports state that in October 2015, Addax Petroleum, a Switzerland-based subsidiary of Sinopec, wired $2,105,263 to an Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA) at Okoronkwo’s LA law firm.

The payment was allegedly disguised as a settlement for negotiation work regarding Addax’s drilling rights in Nigeria.

The indictment further reveals that Addax’s payment was part of a bribery scheme to influence favorable financial terms for its drilling operations. Okoronkwo allegedly used a substantial portion of the bribe to purchase a house in Valencia, and he has been charged with tax evasion for concealing the bribe from his 2015 federal income tax return.

Furthermore, Okoronkwo faces obstruction of justice charges for allegedly providing false information during an interview with investigators in June 2022.

If convicted on all charges, he could potentially face a maximum sentence of ten years in federal prison for each money laundering count, ten years for obstruction of justice, and five years for tax evasion.

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