Following reports last week that Italian prosecutors were calling for Shell and Eni to stand trial for the controversial 2011 offshore block acquisition in Nigeria, this has now been confirmed by Shell.
In a statement sent to Offshore Energy Today late on Tuesday, Shell said it received a notice of request for indictment relating to the 2011 offshore block OPL 245 transaction.
The Tribunal of Milan has fixed the preliminary hearing for April 20, 2017.
A Shell spokesperson said: “Based on our review of the Prosecutor’s file and our understanding of the facts, we don’t believe a request for indictment is justified and we are confident that this will be determined in the next stages of the proceedings. We continue to take this matter seriously and co-operate with the authorities.”
The Shell spokesperson declined to comment further on what the charges are.
To remind, reports last week emerged claiming that the Italian prosecutors have charged Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi with international corruption over the acquisition of the OPL 245 offshore block in Nigeria in 2011.
Apart from Descalzi, the charge reportedly extended to the former CEO Paolo Scaroni and nine other people involved in the $1.3 billion deal. Scaroni served as the Chief Executive Officer of Eni from June 2005 to May 2014, when Descalzi succeeded him.
The Financial Times last week reported that apart from Eni and its former and current members, Shell had also been charged.
This is a continuation of the case stemming from Eni’s and Shell’s joint acquisition of the block named OPL 245 in Nigeria. 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.
Namely, the story goes that 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 licence 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.
Earlier, in January, a Nigerian court in Abuja gave an order ceding control of the OPL 245 block, to the Federal Government “pending investigation and prosecution of suspects” in the $1.1 billion deal.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Shell and Eni have asked for the “temporary forfeiture” of the field to be lifted.
Asked for confirmation, a Shell Nigeria spokesperson said: “SNEPCo has applied to have the EFCC Order discharged on constitutional and procedural grounds. As this matter is the subject of current investigations, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”
SNEPCo is an abbreviation for Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, a Shell subsidiary in Nigeria.
Offshore Energy Today Staff