A trial for oil giants Eni and Shell over bribery and corruption allegations in the purchase of an offshore oilfield in Nigeria was delayed for two months on Monday.
The trial had been set to start in a Milan court, but the judge said that, due to a high number of cases, it would be transferred to another chamber to avoid further delays. The trial is now set to begin on May 14, according to AFP.
Eni chief executive Claudio Descalzi, his predecessor Paolo Scaroni and several managers from Eni and Shell are among those on trial, as is ex-Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete.
Eni — also charged with corruption in Algeria in a separate trial — and Shell stand accused of handing out bribes during the 2011 purchase of OPL245, an offshore oil block estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude, for $1.3 billion (1.06 billion euros).
Both companies deny the charges against them.
“Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct,” the Italian firm said in a statement.
“Eni and Shell closed the deal with the government without the involvement of an intermediary. The money… was deposited into an account owned by the Nigerian government,” said Eni, which has regularly reaffirmed its trust in Descalzi.
– Major litigation –
Descalzi made it clear last year that Shell and Eni had not been “involved in the government’s decision on how to use the money”.
Shell also said it believed the judges would conclude there was no case against them, adding “there is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”