Billionaire Mittal Settles Lawsuit on Nigerian Oil Deal

Bloomberg Billionaires
Graphic: Bloomberg Visual Data

Lakshmi Mittal, ArcelorMittal’s chairman and chief executive officer, settled a lawsuit by a food industry executive over an oil deal struck with the Nigerian government seven years ago.

Mittal, who has an estimated net worth of $16.6 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, resolved the claim by Moni Varma, the founder of Veetee Rice Ltd., according to an e-mailed statement today.

A trial was scheduled to begin today on Varma’s claim that he introduced Mittal to Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president, and that introduction paved the way for a two oil-exploration licenses in the country. He said he was entitled to a success fee on the deal. No financial details of the settlement were provided and the statement from ArcelorMittal said the two sides wouldn’t comment further.

Varma, founder of rice importing, milling and food processing businesses, had said Mittal promised him a success fee of from 5 percent to 15 percent for brokering the deal in a conversation before they boarded a flight to Madrid to meet Obasanjo. Mittal said in court filings he offered Varma $5 million spread over 20 payments in 2007, which Varma refused.

Mittal’s attorneys said in court documents that Varma’s lawsuit was “an opportunistic, speculative piece of litigation” that was “bound to fail.”

The two oil leases in the Niger Delta region required around $6 billion of investment in an 180,000 barrel-a-day refinery, according to Mittal’s court filings.

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