Firm at centre of Lekoil scandal struck off

A company at the centre of allegations that London-listed oil firm Lekoil was tricked into thinking it would get a 184 million dollar (£141 million) loan from Qatar has been struck off by authorities in the Bahamas.

But the PA news agency understands Seawave Invest Ltd could have had its business licence removed before Lekoil handed over a 600,000 dollar (£460,000) fee, raising further questions over the oil firm’s due diligence.

Seawave was struck off between December 9 2019 and January 13 2020, according to data from Open Corporates, a global companies database, potentially prior to Lekoil announcing the deal on January 2.

Seawave, which called itself an independent Africa-focused consultancy, was paid to introduce Lekoil to the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar (QIA) which would lend Lekoil 184 million US dollars, according to Lekoil. It was paid a 600,000 US dollar (£460,000) fee, Lekoil said.

Seawave advertises its services online (Seawave/PA)

However, Lekoil said in a stock exchange announcement that it later discovered “the loan agreement … seems to have been entered into by the company [Lekoil] with individuals who have constructed a complex facade in order to masquerade as representatives of the QIA.”

Lekoil said it had commissioned a report by a third party into Seawave ahead of the deal.

Lekoil told investors on Monday that the report was “based predominately on open source information”.

Open Corporates is an open website which is free to use.

There were several red flags for any investigator who visited Seawave’s website, which was designed by a Ghanaian IT firm, including the mis-spelling of project as “porject” on the front page.

The site includes slogans like “INTEGRITY – Seawave believe in trustworthiness”, but does not name any of its staff or owners.

Its website lists an address which is a postbox in Ghana’s capital Accra but a map shows a different location in a residential area of Nassau – the capital of the Bahamas in the Caribbean.

However, a document on its website connects Seawave to a building which is home to a Bahamian law firm.

Law firm Holowesko Pyfrom Fletcher is linked at least 2,100 companies, according to leaked documents seen by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

On its website, the company offers to provide a registered office and registered agent, and set customers up with corporate secretaries and nominee shareholders.

The Bahamas is a well-known offshore tax haven where residents pay no tax on personal income or capital gains. The UK Treasury added the country to its money laundering watchlist in 2018.

“Until an investigation is completed, we are unable to comment,” a spokesman for Lekoil said.

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