Chad: US justice orders the freezing of Cotco's accounts at Citibank-Gabon

New twist in the standoff between the Chadian government and Savannah Energy, which has bought ExxonMobil's shares in Chadian oil since the end of December 2022. A decision contested by N'Djamena, which has since nationalized its oil. After obtaining from the International Chamber of Commerce in July the annulment of a decision that drove Savannah from the board of directors of Cotco, which manages the pipeline between Chad and Cameroon, this time, a US judge of the Court of 1st Instance of New York decided last Friday, to freeze some $ 151 million housed in the account of this company in the Gabonese subsidiary of Citibank.

Oil wells in Chad. (image of llustration) AFP/SONIA ROLLEY

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N'Djamena is challenging the US judge's decision ordering one of the largest international banks, Citigroup, to order its subsidiary Citibank-Gabon to freeze the funds that are housed in Cotco's account, with the exception of the payment of current expenses.

Citibank Gabon is not its branch, and as such, depends on Gabonese law. "It does not have to respond to the injunctions of the American justice," said Chadian Oil Minister Djerassem Le Bemadjiel. And for those who say that this decision of the American judge is "a financial blow for the Chadian government", "it is false, absolutely false" he hammered.

This sum of 151 million US dollars corresponds to the only dividends generated on the transport of Chadian crude oil by the pipeline between Chad and Cameroon in 2022, explains the Chadian minister. Only 24% of these funds are to return to Chad. "This is not even 2% of our annual oil revenues," he said.

Cotco said it had transported Chadian crude oil worth an estimated $4.5 billion in 2022 (nearly 2.700 trillion CFA francs). The Chadian minister also assures, with supporting documents, that his government was the first to request a freeze of Cotco's account at the end of May of this year, in order to prevent "the Savannah company, which we do not recognize, from going to draw on it".

As for the case between the Chadian government and Savannah Energy, ousted from the Chadian oil company by N'Djamena after it bought ExxonMobil's shares in Chadian oil, it will be decided from June 2025 before the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, according to the Chadian side.

In the meantime, N'Djamena assumes the "nationalization" of its oil. "We are working to compensate ExxonMobil for its shares," says Djerassem Le Bemadjiel. He expects "in return" from the American major that it "compensates" Chad for having left without having restored the polluted soils.

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  • Chad
  • Petroleum