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Nigeria seeks Britain's help to tackle oil crime network

MYT 11:55:01 PM

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria has asked Britain for help to tackle a multi-million dollar oil theft business which is run by international crime syndicates, the country's oil minister said on Tuesday.

Oil 'bunkering' -- hacking into pipelines to steal crude then refining it or selling it abroad -- is costing Nigeria a fifth of its two million barrels per day output, government and international oil companies say.

A billboard campaigning against crude oil theft is seen alongside a road in Yenagoa, the capital of Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa November 28, 2012. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
A billboard campaigning against crude oil theft is seen alongside a road in Yenagoa, the capital of Nigeria's oil state of Bayelsa November 28, 2012. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

"The products from bunkering are not sold in (West Africa), neither are the financial outputs ... laundered in West African banks, they are ending up in far flung international fiscal institutions," Diezani Alison-Madueke told an industry conference in Abuja.

"Mr president has begun to reach out with his colleagues around the world. A discussion was held with the prime minister of Great Britain on Monday a week ago and they are all coming on board to help sort out this particular menace."

Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell, the biggest foreign producer in Nigeria, has been lobbying the British government to help Nigeria to end bunkering, industry sources say.

Yet the complicity of security officials and politicians who profit from the practice may limit the impact international governments can have on ending the illegal industry.

(Reporting by Joe Brock; Editing by Alison Birrane)

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