(Bloomberg) –A timely intervention from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund saved Lekoil Ltd. from a significantly larger loss in a fake loan scam, said a person familiar with the matter.
Before drawing money from a $184 million loan arranged with people claiming to be from the Qatar Investment Authority, Lekoil had been due to pay about $10 million upfront, said the person, asking not to be named because the information isn’t public. Genuine representatives of the sovereign wealth fund contacted Lekoil through an adviser to raise the alarm before that payment was made.
The Africa-focused oil and gas producer still faces the loss of $600,000, including costs and a fee already paid to Seawave Invest Ltd. for arranging the non-existent loan. There’s also the possibility that it could lose a Nigerian oil license because it lacks funds for development. Lekoil’s stock sank to a record low in London after it announced it had fallen victim to the alleged scam on Jan. 13.
Lekoil said that it’s unable to comment on this matter while an investigation is underway. The QIA declined to comment.
Lekoil’s Chief Executive Officer Lekan Akinyanmi was at the center of negotiations with the people claiming to represent the QIA, the person said. He spent months exchanging documents and contracts to finalize the deal, which was announced on Jan. 2.
Ten days later, Lekoil received word from the QIA that there was no loan. The company discovered it had in fact been dealing with “individuals who have constructed a complex facade in order to masquerade as representatives of the QIA.”
Akinyanmi is not new to the oil industry. He started his career as a field engineer traveling the world with Schlumberger before getting an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moving into finance, according to Lekoil’s website. He worked for UBS Investment Research and later headed AllianceBernstein LP‘s international energy sector.
Lekoil’s CEO was introduced to the fake Qatari investors early last year by Bismark Abrafi, managing partner for Seawave, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Lekoil’s board was introduced to the QIA representatives and negotiations then got going. Akinyanmi flew to Istanbul and other locations in the Middle East as details of the deal were ironed out, one of the people said.
The company’s interim chief financial officer Greg Eckersley, who previously worked as the global head of internal equities for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, also took part in the talks, one of the people said. Eckersley’s six-month role as CFO ended earlier this year. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Seawave describes itself as an independent consultant specializing in cross-border transactions, with a focus on Africa. The company said this week that it wouldn’t comment on the matter until I had conducted its own investigation. The firm is based in Accra, Ghana, according to its website. A Bloomberg reporter found Seawave’s office, on the first floor of a modern building in the heart of the city, empty.
Law firm Norton Rose Fulbright LLP advised Lekoil on the documentation needed for the deal. “We understand that the matter is under investigation by Lekoil and we cannot comment further at this time,” it said in a statement.