By Javier Blas and Jesse Riseborough
(Bloomberg) — Glencore Plc is being sued by a former representative in Nigeria who says the commodities trader promised him $5 million to help free 15 Russian sailors detained on suspicion of smuggling guns.Og Amazu, owner of trader Amazoil Nigeria Ltd., says in a London lawsuit that Alex Beard, Glencore’s head of oil, failed to pay the fee in return for his assistance. Amazu, who claims to have earned $64 million working for Glencore since 2007, says in the complaint that he arranged meetings with “high-ranking” Nigerian security officials at the behest of Beard to help free crew members of the Seadiver.
Amazu explained at the meetings “Glencore had been an extremely loyal and sizeable investor in Nigeria and that it was extremely concerned about the situation,” lawyers for Amazu said in the lawsuit filed last week.
“The allegations are baseless and we will vigorously defend the case against us,” Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore said in a statement. Beard declined to comment.
Beard, a 20-year veteran of Glencore, has a 2.4 percent stake in the trading company, valued at $1.4 billion. Amazu is seeking a total of $10 million. If true, it provides a rare glimpse into the opaque world of commodity trading in Africa, where Glencore, a $57 billion London-listed company, is one of the biggest players.
Glencore traded up 1 percent at 277.75 pence as of 9:26 a.m. on Wednesday in London. The shares are still down almost 50 percent since their initial offering in the city in 2011.
Amazu says he was asked by Beard in April 2013 to assist in the release of the Seadiver crew, which was working for OAO SovComFlot, a Russian state-owned company and a client of Glencore. The crew was arrested in Lagos that year on suspicion of smuggling 14 Kalashnikov rifles, 22 Benelli MR1 rifles and 8,000 rounds of ammunition.
Amazu alleges that Beard told him he would arrange partial payment of the $5 million fee through Glimer Ltd., a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Beard allegedly said the payment would have to be structured through a loan agreement, but it could be renewed indefinitely.
Amazu is also suing Glencore for allegedly failing to pay him another $5 million he claims he’s owed for organizing meetings between Beard and Nigerian officials in London in 2014.
Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, is a senior independent non-executive director of Glencore.
The case is Amazu v Glencore, High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division, Case No. 2015-684
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