Africa Oil & Gas: ENI, SHELL to stand trial in Italy over Nigeria corruption scandal

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ENI, SHELL to stand trial in Italy over Nigeria corruption scandal

Shell, Eni and senior managers including Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi have been ordered to stand trial by a judge in Milan over allegations relating to a Nigerian asset. Both firms say they have done nothing wrong.

Shell, Eni and a number of their former and present senior managers including Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi have been ordered to stand trial by a judge in Milan, Italy, according to press reports December 20.

The preliminary ruling follows allegations of bribes having been paid, during Eni and Shell’s joint acquisition of exploration block OPL 245 offshore Nigeria in 2011. Reuters said the judge set March 5 as the date when the trial would begin, citing legal sources.

In response, Eni December 20 in an official statement noted “the decision made by the preliminary hearing judge” and said its board “reaffirmed its confidence that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction” adding that its decision was based on the results of independent advisors’ investigations, who had had access to all evidence filed with the Milan court.

Eni’s board also “confirmed its full confidence that chief executive Claudio Descalzi was not involved in the alleged illegal conduct and, more broadly, in his role as head of the company.” It also said it was confident that the trial will uphold its integrity.

A Shell statement also noted: “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.” It also said that it attaches “the greatest importance to business integrity” and has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption. A Shell source said that four former Shell employees have been indicted: former Shell upstream chief Malcolm Brinded, plus more junior ex-employees Peter Robinson, Guy Colegate and John Copleston.

Prosecutors in February 2017 asked the court in Milan to bring charges against Eni plus Descalzi, Shell, and a further ten individuals, alleging that $1.3bn of bribes were paid to senior Nigerian politicians over OPL 245 in 2011. However in March 2017, OPL 245 was returned to Shell and Eni after a Nigerian judge struck down an earlier ruling seizing the asset because of the allegations. source: NWG

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