$1.3bn Malabu Oil Deal: Judge Orders Shell, Eni to Stand Trial on Alleged Corruption

An Italian Judge has ordered oil majors Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) and Eni (ENI.MI) to stand trial over alleged corruption in Nigeria with the CEO of Eni among past and present managers involved, legal sources said on Wednesday.
The Judge set March 5, 2018 as the date for the trial to begin, the sources said.
All the parties involved have previously denied any wrongdoing.
The case revolves around the purchase in 2011 of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oil block by Eni and Shell for about $1.3bn.
The Italian giant Eni and fellow petroleum company Shell will stand trial in Italy over allegations of bribery and corruption in the 2011 purchase of an offshore oil block.
The companies are accused of corruption in the 2011 purchase of OPL245, an offshore oil block estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of crude, for $1.3bn.
“Eni’s Board of Directors has reaffirmed its confidence that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction,” the Italian firm said in a statement Wednesday.
“Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct,” it said.
It insisted in particular that “chief executive Claudio Descalzi was not involved in the alleged illegal conduct”.
Both companies are charged with corruption in Nigeria over the accord, which allegedly saw Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan and his oil Minister pocket bribes.
The deal saw the Nigerian government act as an intermediary between the oil majors and Malabu Oil and Gas, a Nigerian company allegedly controlled by former petroleum minister Dan Etete.
Allegations of corruption and bribery have mounted in the years since, forcing Shell and Eni to repeatedly maintain that they acquired the rights to the lucrative block in line with Nigerian law.
But email exchanges between Shell management cited in a report by corruption watchdog Global Witness, and seen by AFP, suggest that Shell was aware the money was likely to be funnelled to individuals, including Etete and Jonathan.
Etete was also ordered to stand trial by the Milan court.
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency filed corruption charges against Shell and Eni in March, accusing 11 defendants, including Etete, of “official corruption” in connection with the oil block deal.
Jonathan has denied receiving kickbacks, saying in January that he has not been “accused, indicted or charged for corruptly collecting monies” linked to the deal.
The OPL245 oil block has been a source of contention for almost two decades.
In 1998, the block was awarded by then Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete, to Malabu Oil and Gas.
Years of legal wrangling between Malabu, the Nigerian government and Shell ensued, with Shell ultimately winning rights to the block in a partnership with Eni.

Author: News Editor

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