Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world’s largest oil companies, has been put under investigation by Dutch and Italian authorities over an alleged corruption related to an acquisition of an oil block in Nigeria in 2011.
Global Witness, an international NGO investigating corruption in the energy sector, said its investigation exposed the OPL 245 offshore block in Nigeria was sold in 1998 for $20 million to Malabu Oil & Gas, a company secretly owned by the then oil minister, Dan Etete, who later passed the block on to Shell and Eni in 2011, with the Nigerian government acting as middleman, for US$1.1bn.
“This sum is equivalent to 80% of the country’s 2015 health budget, but it never reached state coffers,” Global Witness said, adding that Eni and Shell “have always denied that they knew the money would ultimately go to Etete, despite evidence from Global Witness showing otherwise.”
The Wall Street Journal, citing Italian court documents, on Thursday said the Italian authorities are looking into where the money from the block acquisition went, and whether Eni and Shell knew the final destination.
Citing Italian media, Global Witness reported that Shell’s headquarters in the Hague were, raided in February by 50 officers from the Italian financial police and their Dutch colleagues, with the raid lasting through the night. The Dutch home of former Nigerian Attorney General Mohammed Bello Adoke was also searched, Global Witness reported.
In an e-mail sent to Offshore Energy Today on Thursday, a Shell spokesperson confirmed that representatives from Dutch Financial Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) and the Dutch Public Prosecutor recently visited Shell at its headquarters in The Hague.
The spokesperson said: “The visit was related to OPL 245, an offshore block in Nigeria that was the subject of a series of long-standing disputes with the Federal Government of Nigeria. Shell is cooperating with the authorities and is looking into the allegations, which it takes seriously.
Furthermore, the spokesperson confirmed Shell has received notice of proceedings from the Public Prosecutor in Italy, and is fully cooperating with the Italian authorities and is looking into the allegations.
“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. All employees are expected to uphold these principles and failure to do so will result in consequences up to and including dismissal,” a Shell spokesperson said in the e-mail.
Italian oil and gas company Eni in June last year said that an audit by an independent U. S. law firm found no evidence of illegal conduct in relation to Eni and Shell’s acquisition of OPL 245, offshore Nigeria.
In 2014, the Milan Prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into over $1 billion worth acquisition of block OPL 245 by Eni and Shell. Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi was put under investigation, but Eni denied any wrongdoing.