- An Italian federal judge ruled today that Royal Dutch Shell and Italian company, Eni, must face prosecution on charges of corruption over a controversial $1.3 billion Nigeria’s OPL 245 oil deal.
The judge set a March 5 trial date in Milan for a group of current and former executives, including Eni’s chief executive, Claudio Descalzi, and Malcolm Brinded, a former chief of exploration and production for Shell.
The judge also said Descalzi’s predecessor, Paolo Scaroni, should be tried for their role in the controversial deal, according to Italian media reports, Wednesday.
The case stems from a long-running investigation by Italian prosecutors into the two companies’ purchase in 2011 of a potentially lucrative offshore block, OPL 245 in the Atlantic Ocean off Nigeria. The payment to the Nigerian government was intended to resolve a dispute over the tract, which was also claimed by a company called Malabu Oil and Gas, a company linked to a former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete. The Nigerian government, in turn, agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle Malabu’s claims.
Etete, and a former Attorney-General, Bello Adoke, are amongst several Nigerian officials indicted in the deal. Italian prosecutors say Nigerian officials were paid off with large sums of money in bribe.
Both Shell and Eni have denied wrongdoing in the controversial deal.
In a prompt reaction to the judge’s decision on Wednesday, Shell issued a statement saying it was shocked by the decision.
“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, the company said in a statement.