industry

Prosecutors seek jail terms over Shell and Eni oil deal in Nigeria


Italian prosecutors have called for executives at Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s Eni to face jail time over alleged corruption in a $1bn (£770m) oil deal in Nigeria.

Fabio De Pasquale, one of Italy’s top anti-corruption prosecutors said Eni’s chief executive officer, Claudio Descalzi, should face eight years in jail.

He also asked the court to consider a seven-year and four-month sentence for Malcolm Brinded, who ran Shell’s exploration and production division at the time.

In his closing arguments of the two-year trial, De Pasquale urged the Milan court to seize $1.09bn from the defendants, who also include a string of Nigerian businessmen.

The Italian authorities have accused the oil companies and their executives of knowingly paying bribes and kickbacks to secure part of an oilfield estimated to hold billions of barrels of oil in a 2011 deal worth $1.3bn.

The companies, and their executives, have consistently denied having had any knowledge that most of the money they paid to secure a stake in the OPL 245 licence would later be used for corrupt payments to middlemen and Nigerian politicians.

The licence was originally awarded by the Nigerian government in 1998 to Malabu Oil and Gas, which was later found to be controlled by the country’s oil minister at the time, Dan Etete.


The former minister was one of the parties alleged to have taken a kickback from the lump sum deposited by Shell and Eni into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government to secure an interest in the oilfield.

Italian prosecutors are seeking a 10-year jail sentence for Etete, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Eni said in a statement that the prosecutor’s requests were “completely groundless”, and Shell said it did not believe there was a basis to convict the company or any of its employees.

The court is expected to give its verdict on the case later this year after the oil companies present their defence at hearings scheduled for September.

Shell may face a separate legal battle over its record in Nigeria after lawyers representing the country’s farmers and fishermen brought an appeal to the UK’s supreme court, which could reopen claims against the company over oil spills in the Niger Delta.

The case was dismissed by the UK high court in 2017, which ruled that the Anglo-Dutch oil company could not be held responsible for its subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.

Shell’s records confirm Nigerian communities have been affected by at least 40 oil spills from its pipelines and equipment since 1989, including 23 in the past four years.



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