Eni and Shell will stand trial over a corruption charge related to alleged offenses over the acquisition of the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 in Nigeria in 2011.
Eni said on Wednesday that the preliminary hearing judge at the court of Milan made a decision to “send the company, its chief executive and a number of managers to trial on a charge of international corruption related to the acquisition, in 2011, of a stake in the OPL 245 license in Nigeria.”
Shell too confirmed that the judge remanded it to trial for the OPL 245 case.
Responding to the court decision, Eni’s board has reiterated its belief that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction.
Eni’s board further said it was confident that its chief executive Claudio Descalzi was not involved in the alleged illegal conduct and, more broadly, in his role as head of the company.
“Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct,” Eni said.
Reuters has reported that apart from the companies, the judge has set a March 5 trial date for a group of current and former executives, including Claudio Descalzi, Eni’s chief executive, and Malcolm Brinded, a former chief of exploration and production for Shell.
In a statement to Offshore Energy Today, Brinded said: “I am disappointed by the court’s decision. I have done nothing wrong and believe that will become clear in any legal proceedings. I stand by my view that there is absolutely no basis for the charges against me.”
Shell said: “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. Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our Code of Conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”
“Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our Code of Conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”
Eni and Shell jointly bought the block in question 2011 for more than one billion U.S. dollars. In 2014, the Milan Prosecutor’s office launched an investigation to see where the payment went and whether Eni and Shell knew, as it has been alleged that the money didn’t end up in the state coffers but was passed on further to the former oil minister Dan Etete.
The OPL 245 license had been owned by Malabu oil company, allegedly secretly owned by Etete. The allegations are that the Nigerian government gave the license to Shell and Eni for more than a billion dollars, and then passed the cash further to Malabu, that is, Etete.
Both Eni and Shell have been denying any wrongdoing ever since the start of the investigation.
Offshore Energy Today has reached out to Shell, seeking more details on the charges. A Shell spokesperson told us to contact the Italian prosecutors. The Italian authorities did not reply to our email.
Offshore Energy Today Staff