A journalist by profession, a former strategic director and editor of Obe TV and administrator of a dozen companies registered in the United Kingdom, although some are now extinct. Michael Ugochukwu Orji (1967), originally from Nigeria, was appointed Corporate Strategy Advisor to the Group of Companies of the national oil company (GEP ETROL , for its acronym) on May 10, 2019. Position he obtained on the recommendation of the dictator and that he has been occupying unofficially since February 2016 in his private residence in London.
Two months after the questioned appointment, the dictator authorized GEPETROL CEO Antonio Oburu Ondo to fire the entire Equatorial Guinean board of directors that ran the GEPETROL London office since its inception in 2002. He considered that they could «hinder and intercept» the operations of the Nigerian journalist. With this appointment, the Equatorial Guinean authorities handed over the management of the oil contracts to a citizen from the first largest oil producer in Africa, a very serious mistake.
Michael Orji, Mike to his friends, became part of the cupola of Theodore Obiang Nguema’s regime through Augustine Nze Nfumu (1949), Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland between 2005 and 2011. Professional relations The duo Nze-Orji grew stronger during a trip to Equatorial Guinea, where Michael was introduced to the country’s political class, being received by the dictator and earning his trust.
In 2007, the duo founded Ceiba Magazine , a magazine that would serve to clean the image of the dictatorship, and was well compensated. Orji would hold the position of Director General until August 2013, having published different numbers that would count with the collaboration of Agustín Nze Nfumu and León Nze Castro, among others. Taking advantage of his time at Ceiba Magazine, Orji set up a powerful network of contacts that would take him to the top of those who have ruined the state oil company. Ceiba Magazine eventually became a passenger-oriented magazine as it now belongs to the national airline Ceiba Intercontinental.
At the same time, on September 7, 2005 they founded the company Fourth Estate Consulting Ltda . Agustín Nze Nfumu, who was still an ambassador, would hold the position of General Director from September 3 to December 15, 2006. The company acted as an intermediary looking for investors, and with whom they signed advisory or commercial intermediation contracts, either in the private or public sphere. Fourth Estate Consulting Ltda ceases its activities on July 10, 2007.
Michael Orji takes advantage of the network of contacts and good relations he maintains with the dictator’s family, and 15 months later he reappears as the founder of 4TH Estate Consults Ltda, a company that represents the interests of the Equatorial Guinean government abroad and, in the that he himself appears as administrator with 55% of shares. The rest of the shares are divided between Leon Nze Castro with 20%, Jonathan Georges Soyven Esparon with 15% and Himet Ozkutan with 10%. Between October 2008 and April 2015, 7 managers have resigned. On May 30, 2019 Antonio Oburu Ondo joins the company , a position that he combines with that of CEO of GEPETROL, and surprisingly he appears as a citizen of the well-known tax haven of Cyprus. Why would Oburu use Cypriot nationality and not Equatorial Guinean?
The registered office of 4TH Estate Consults Ltda is set at Fermain Court West No. 59, De Beauvoir Road, London, N1 5TB, exactly the same address that Antonio Oburu Ondo declares as his address, and the one that also appears as a register other companies linked to the Nigerian journalist. The Gepetrol Group Business Ltda ., Constituted 4 months after Oburu Ondo appointed the Nigerian journalist Strategic Head of Gepetrol in London, Michael Orji, was registered at the same address in response to the proposal of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
Orji is also listed as a director at The Bluestein Company Ltda . (registered on January 18, 2019) whose corporate purpose is the extraction of oil, ornamental and construction stone, as well as the management of hotels and accommodation. Ambition Resource Partners Ltda., Is another company created by Orji on February 13, 2020.
How the 4TH Estate Consults Ltda. Think Tank operates.
Founded in 2001, GEPETROL was created with the aim of managing the State’s participation in the oil sector through its commercialization. Gepetrol thus functions as an agent for areas of Equatorial Guinea for which no licenses have been granted and interacts with foreign companies to favor the award of new licenses and the creation of companies. The creation of joint ventures has become the great source of financing for Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s family and collaborators. They are the ones who control the state oil company through intermediary and subcontracting companies to which they award millionaire contracts benefiting directly. From Candido Nsue Okomo to Antonio Oburu Ondo,
According to an expert in the constitution of offshore companies consulted by Diario Rombe, «4TH Estate Consults Ltda. Would act as a shell company through which mediates a contract previously signed by Gepetrol, granting it rights to seek investors and demanding the payment of high commissions to close an agreement with Gepetrol”, the only mistake Oburu made in this operation, the expert points out, «was to appear as a director of the intermediary company that provides services to Gepetrol», a practice that is at least reprehensible.
The specialist concludes by noting that «make laugh other companies similar screens where Ingres ar funds» . Antonio Oburu Ondo is known in Equatorial Guinean society for his millionaire wealth and for his distrust of Equatorial Guineans despite having in his network a group of women who act on his behalf. During his time in London as Head of Crude Oil Sales he must have met many Nigerians and Ghanaians who would have led him by the hand to the world of oil, and who would later become his main collaborators.
When foreign companies arrive with the intention of investing in the oil sector, they encounter a great problem that consists of paying large commissions to sign a simple «memorandum of understanding». On other occasions, Gepetrol officials suggest to start the talks, contract the services of 4TH Estate Consults Ltda.
Antonio Oburu Ondo’s company acts as an intermediary in the vast majority of Gepetrol’s operations. Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest scandals since Candido Nsue Okomo’s departure, as Diario Rombe has learned from a source close to the investigation that the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons would be carrying out.
They present themselves to investors as a so-called «independent consultant» who provides consulting services to companies in Equatorial Guinea and includes in its «menu» a long list of services such as «brokerage, facilitating business transactions, business partner meetings with government authorities or, etc. ”.
The rates of 4TH Estate Consults Ltda are huge and vary depending on the volume of contracts signed with the National Petroleum Company of Equatorial Guinea. They charge 10% of the total value of contracts that reach a million dollars; 8% if it exceeds one million ($ 1,000,001) and up to $ 10 million; 7% if it exceeds 10 million ($ 10,000,001) and up to $ 100 million; 5% of contracts between $ 100,000,001 and $ 1 billion; and finally, they charge 3% of the value that exceeds $ 1 billion. They require that commissions be paid in US dollars or their equivalent in euros or pounds sterling, without deductions of any kind in a bank account opened at a local bank and which is subsequently transferred abroad.
What consequence will this case have for the image of Gepetrol? Absolutely none. Over time, the directors of the state oil company have operated with these corporate structures and practices with total impunity.