A Mail on Sunday investigation has found that far from working on the margins of Elf Aquitaine, Justin Welby was one of its finance ‘sharks’ – and employed on a morally questionable plan to protect the firm’s oil interests in Nigeria in the early Eighties. Named Bonny LNG, the plan involved persuading the country’s leaders that Elf and other major oil companies were poised to invest £6 billion in an energy project that had scant hope of being realised. Throughout this period, the French state-owned company – which later became synonymous with corruption and scandal – was allegedly committing human rights abuses against the people of the oil-abundant Niger Delta. Soldiers paid by Elf seized land from tribesmen in the region, often using violence. And locals say police officers were paid to arrest those who resisted.

Mr Welby, who made regular visits to the country’s capital for meetings at the time, strenuously denies being aware of the claims – or the true motivation for the Bonny LNG project. During his five years at Elf he worked under a number of colourful characters, none more so than the Corsican-born oil executive Andre Tarallo, dubbed Monsieur Africa. Tarallo, who was in charge of African operations, would later feature in a massive fraud inquiry that tore the company apart in the Nineties. He was jailed for four years in 2003 for paying millions in bribes to African leaders in return for oil contracts.

‘Some of my other colleagues had contact with Tarallo and they were caught with their pants down,’ said Mr Welby’s former boss, Kjell Skjevesland. ‘Justin would have had direct contact with him. Justin would have been in the meetings with him, probably as the only non-French guy in there.’

However, Mr Welby denies meeting Tarallo in person.

A person who had been involved in such scandalous behaviour and who later "saw the light" would probably try to atone for their sins by devoting much of their time to the wellbeing of the country they had helped damage. Such a person would probably also have a very cynical view of big business, especially the financial sector, and might use a new position of authority to lash out at such agencies and cause them damage. I'm just saying, that's all.

UPDATE: I have received the following correspondence from a reliable source who will remain anonymous.

Very interesting article in the Mail, even though it is the Mail. We had a friend who traveled often to Nigeria on oil business.  As best I can remember, it would have been at the same time as Justin was there in the 1980s.  Nigeria was and is a dangerous  place for Europeans and Americans, then as now, for the poor were and are exploited by their own government in collusion with the oil companies.  The workers earn only a pittance in wages, for the corrupt government steals most of the money, while the workers remain very poor.

My friend traveled a guarded road to a guarded oil company compound, because the poor people were angry at the exploitation, and violent rebel groups sprang up to fight back.  One would be hard put to miss the 2+2 and come to any other conclusion than that the oil companies were and are involved in a very dirty business in Nigeria. 

I am all for forgiveness by God and people especially if the guilty party truly repents. But I'm also for honesty and the avoidance of hypocrisy. For example, if a former businessman who was involved in morally dubious business practices but has since repented and turned to God can be trusted with a position of great authority in the Church, then surely a former lorry driver, who anally retentive as he was and still is, refused to ever even break the speed limit or fiddle his tachograph, can be trusted with some low level parish priest job even if he was guilty of gross depression seventeen years ago.

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