OpeOluwani Akintayo, with agency report
Lagos — More evidence has emerged in the ongoing Eni/Royal Dutch Shell $1.3 billion corruption case over Nigeria’s controversial Oil Prospecting License, OPL, 254.
A Switzerland top court, the Federal Tribunal, has allowed Geneva prosecutors to share with Italy materials they seized more than three years ago that could shed light on the case.
In a ruling announced on Monday, the court rejected defendant Emeka Obi’s appeal to prevent photocopies of items and computer files recovered from his confiscated suitcase from being sent to Italian crime investigators, according to a report by Reuters.
Eni and Shell had bought the OPL 245 offshore field for about $1.3 billion, out of which about $1.1 billion allegedly went into the pockets of agents and middlemen.
The Swiss court said the case did not fall within scope of permissible appeals to the tribunal.
Geneva prosecutors have been reviewing materials in the suitcase to decide what can be shared with Italian authorities.
The move followed the Federal Tribunal’s rejection of an appeal by Obi to prevent his suitcase from being unsealed last year.
In that ruling, the court said the confiscated material – including documents, an external hard drive, British and African passports, and USB keys – could have “potential pertinence” in the criminal investigation and the sealing could be lifted without violating Swiss law.
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Obi has denied any wrongdoing in the case.
“Our client has maintained his innocence in regards to the various allegations made by the Milan prosecutors and is confident that the final evaluation of the contents of his bag will confirm this,” he said through his lawyer last year.
An Italian judge said last year that Eni and Shell were aware their 2011 purchase of a Nigerian oilfield would result in corrupt payments to Nigerian politicians and officials.
Eni and Shell have denied any wrongdoing.
The Milan judge made the comment in her written reasons for the September conviction of Obi and Italian Gianluca Di Nardo, both middlemen in the OPL 245 deal, for corruption. The pair were jailed for four years.
Obi and Di Nardo have been tried separately from Eni and Shell, which also face corruption allegations over the same deal in a hearing that is expected to drag on for months.
Obi brought the Swiss case to keep the contents of the suitcase – seized in Geneva in April 2016 in an inquiry unrelated to the corruption case – from being shared with foreign authorities.
Its confiscation led Geneva prosecutors to open a criminal case for suspected corruption of foreign officials and money-laundering.
Afterwards, Italian authorities requested judicial assistance, arguing that the suitcase and its contents had been deliberately hidden in Geneva.
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