OPL 245 bribery case: $190m frozen in UK & Switzerland

*Eni CEO named as suspect

14 September 2014, London – Global Witness, Re: Common and Dotun Oloko welcome the freezing of funds as part of the continuing investigation into the deal for the OPL 245 oil block in Nigeria. Italian authorities are investigating the acquisition of the Nigerian oil block OPL 245 for which subsidiaries of Eni and Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay US$1.1billion in 2011.

Map showing some of Nigeria's deepwater oil acreageShell and ENI have claimed that they only paid the Nigerian Government. Eni has said in a statement that “Eni continues to deny any illegal conduct” and “Eni is cooperating with the Milan prosecutor’s office, and is confident that the correctness of its actions will emerge during the course of the investigation.”

The funds frozen today are thought to be held by Malabu and its middleman Energy Venture Partners.

“The freezing of $190m in proceeds from the OPL 245 oil deal is good news for the people of Nigeria many of whom live in poverty despite the country’s oil wealth. $1.1bn was diverted from the public purse, this needs to be recovered as well as get to the bottom of the role companies and individuals played in this heist.” Said Dotun Oloko, a Nigerian anti-corruption activist.

“This case shows precisely why the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States needs to establish a strong transparency rule for provision 1504 of the Dodd Frank Act.

This will require companies to disclose their payments for oil projects so that they don’t go missing. Had an operational rule for 1504 been in place in April 2011, when the deal for OPL-245 was concluded, this would have shed crucial light on a process that was conducted hidden away behind closed doors.” Said Simon Taylor, Global Witness director.

“The naming of Claudio Descalzi, ENI’s new CEO, its outgoing CEO Paolo Scaroni and Roberto Casula its Chief development, operations and technology officer as suspects in the Italian bribery investigation should raise concerns in Italy about ethics standards in state owned companies.

Today’s news demonstrates our concerns around Descalzi’s controversial appointment and represents a further setback for the Italian government which failed to achieve reform in a vote at the company AGM. Bold action against alleged mismanagement by ENI managers is urgently needed.” Said Antonio Tricarico, programme director, Re: Common.
*Global Witness

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