The High Court on Thursday ordered the government to confiscate the properties belonging to the Canadian oil and gas company, Niko Resources Ltd, in Block 9.
The court also declared illegal the two agreements that Niko signed with Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited (Bapex) and the state-owned Petrobangla, reports Bangla Tribune.
The bench of Justice Naima Haider and Justice Abu Taher Md Saifur Rahman passed the order on Thursday.
Niko signed a joint venture agreement with Bapex in 2003 for developing Chhatak East and Feni gas fields, and another joint venture agreement with Petrobangla in 2006 to sell the gas extracted from Feni gas field.
In a 2010 writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), the High Court passed a judgment directing Niko to compensate Petrobangla and Bapex for two blowouts that occurred in 2005 at Tengratila gas field.
Bapex lodged a compensation claim for US$137.4 million while Petrobangla claimed US$1.05 billion for the blowouts caused by Niko.
The writ petition also restrained Petrobangla from making any payments to Niko pending the settlement of the compensation claims.
In 2010, Niko filed two ICSID arbitration cases: one for the payment of gas supplied to Petrobangla; and another seeking a declaration of nonliability for the blowouts.
On March 25, 2016, Bapex and Petrobangla gave ICSID the evidence that showed Niko had obtained rights in the Chattak and Feni gas fields through bribery and corruption.
On May 9, 2016, the High Court issued a ruling asking the government to explain why the two joint venture agreements should not be declared illegal. Following a public interest litigation, the court also issued a stay on the contracts.
State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said the High Court verdict in the Niko graft case is “very important for the government” since the Canadian energy company had been awarded a contract by the then BNP-Jamaat ruling alliance.
He said the government would be able to recover the huge losses incurred because of the twin blowouts at Tengratila gas field.
Bangladesh co-counsel for ICSID arbitration cases, Barrister Moin Ghani, told the Dhaka Tribune that the verdict will be placed to the international arbitration tribunal – International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) – where another case over graft charges is also being tried.