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SFO secures £5.45m confiscation order against ex-Afren CEO and COO

31 July, 2020 | Case Updates

The SFO has today secured confiscation orders totalling £5,450,000 against the former Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Afren. Former CEO Osman Shahenshah was ordered to pay £2,935,000 and former COO Shahid Ullah was ordered to pay £2,515,000.

After deceiving the board of Afren into a $300m deal from which they personally stood to gain over $17m, Shahenshah and Ullah were each found guilty of one count of fraud and two counts of money laundering in October 2018. The two men hatched the scheme following a shareholder revolt which objected to their £6.6m and £3.8m salary packages and threatened the possibility of lower remuneration in future. Seeking to maintain their high rate of pay, they created a side deal with one of Afren’s Nigerian oil partners whereby 15% of Afren’s payment to the company would be paid out to a Bermudan shell company controlled by Shahenshah and Ullah.

Lisa Osofsky, Director of the Serious Fraud Office, said:

“These men reacted to shareholder concerns about their high remuneration by defrauding the very company that paid them. Their selfish actions showed cynical disregard for the law, their colleagues and common decency.

“Our pursuit of fraudsters does not stop at conviction, and I’m delighted that our Proceeds of Crime team have been able to identify considerable criminal gains from these men.”

Having secretly put this deal in place, the two men recommended to the Afren board a $300m payment to the Nigerian oil partners. When this payment was made, Shahenshah and Ullah, along with some staff at the Nigerian partner and a close network of Afren staff dubbed ‘The A Team’, received $45m from the deal. The two men used this money to purchase luxury properties in Mustique and the British Virgin Islands.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah were convicted on 24 October 2018 and sentenced on 29 October 2018.
  2. Osman Shahenshah, former co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Afren, received 6 years’ imprisonment for one count of fraud, contrary to section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006; 6 years’ concurrent for one count of money laundering, contrary to section 329 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; and 4 years’ concurrent for one count of money laundering, contrary to section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
  3. Shahid Ullah, former Chief Operating Officer of Afren, received 5 years’ imprisonment for one count of fraud, contrary to section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006; 5 years’ concurrent for one count of money laundering, contrary to section 329 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; and 4 years’ concurrent for one count of money laundering, contrary to section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
  4. Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah were found not guilty of the following offence, relating to misconduct between 1st May 2013 and 29th July 2014:
    a. One count of fraud by abuse of position, contrary to sections 1 and 4 of the Fraud Act 2006.
  5. Afren Plc was an oil and gas exploration and production company, founded in 2004. The company is now in administration.
  6. Further information can be found on the Afren case page on our website.