with agency reports
21 December 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Italian oil giant, Eni and fellow petroleum company Shell will stand trial in Italy over allegations of bribery and corruption in the acquisition of the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 in Nigeria in 2011.
A judge in Milan ordered Eni, Shell and key figures such as Eni chief Claudio Descalzi and his predecessor Paolo Scaroni to stand trial in proceedings to begin March 5.
Eni said yesterday that the preliminary hearing judge at the court of Milan made a decision to “send the company, its chief executive and a number of managers to trial on a charge of international corruption related to the acquisition, in 2011, of a stake in the OPL 245 license in Nigeria.”
Shell too confirmed that the judge remanded it to trial for the OPL 245 case.
The companies are accused of corruption in the 2011 purchase of OPL 245, an offshore oil block estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of crude, for $1.3 billion.
Responding to the court decision, Eni’s board has reiterated its belief that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction.
“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 deal, which allegedly saw Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan and his oil minister pocket bribes.
Both have repeatedly maintained that they acquired the rights to the lucrative block in line with Nigerian law.
Reuters has reported that apart from the companies, the judge has set a March 5 trial date for a group of current and former executives, including Claudio Descalzi, Eni’s chief executive, and Malcolm Brinded, a former chief of exploration and production for Shell.
In a statement on Wednesday, Brinded said: “I am disappointed by the court’s decision. I have done nothing wrong and believe that will become clear in any legal proceedings. I stand by my view that there is absolutely no basis for the charges against me.”
Shell said: “We are disappointed by the outcome of the preliminary hearing and the decision to indict Shell and its former employees. We believe the trial judges will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees.
“Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity. It’s one of our core values and is a central tenet of the Business Principles that govern the way we do business. Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our Code of Conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”
“Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our Code of Conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”
Eni and Shell jointly bought the block in question 2011 for more than one billion U.S. dollars. In 2014, the Milan Prosecutor’s office launched an investigation to see where the payment went and whether Eni and Shell knew, as it has been alleged that the money didn’t end up in the state coffers but was passed on further to the former oil minister Dan Etete.
The OPL 245 license had been owned by Malabu oil company, allegedly secretly owned by Etete. The allegations are that the Nigerian government gave the license to Shell and Eni for more than a billion dollars, and then passed the cash further to Malabu, that is, Etete.
Both Eni and Shell have been denying any wrongdoing ever since the start of the investigation.