02 September 2016, Lagos – Prominent Nigerians have been named in an alleged conspiracy to undermine Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, and the leadership of the giant state-owned oil major ENI.
There are indications that the Nigerian involvement is linked to the controversy around the 2011 sale of the oil block OPL245 from the indigenous company Malabu to Shell and ENI, a transaction mired in allegations of corruption.
The plotters are accused of circulating damaging rumours about ENI CEO, Claudio Descalzi and that Prime Minister Renzi, a supporter of Descalzi, was an agent of Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service. The conspiracy theory is trending in Italian media. Investigation on the oil deal has been ongoing.
As part of their investigation, the Italian prosecutors in May 2014 asked the UK’s CPS to freeze $85m in assets related to a Nigerian company, Malabu Oil & Gas, that prosecutors say was involved in the sale, according to a copy of the official request sent by the Milan investigators and seen by Reuters.
In the letter, the Italian prosecutors alleged that Scaroni and Descalzi oversaw the payments to parties who helped secure the sale. In a second letter they alleged that some of the ultimate recipients of alleged bribes used the money to buy aircraft and armoured cars. “We are investigating many money transfers to many people in various countries who received sums that vary from millions of dollars to thousands of dollars,” the prosecutors said in the follow-up letter.
In response to the requests London’s Southwark Crown Court granted an order to seize the $85m in assets related to Malabu. London’s Metropolitan Police has also been investigating aspects of the Nigerian deal. A police spokesperson said the inquiry into allegations of money laundering is continuing. Descalzi and Scaroni, in statements and through their lawyers, denied that they were involved in any illegal behaviour. Descalzi also told Eni employees in an email seen by Reuters that he had not engaged in any wrongdoing.