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The defendants were accused of conspiring to pay over $500 million dollars cash as bribes to officials as part of their deal for a massive Nigerian oil field called OPL 245.
The trial, along with related probes in at least five other countries, were triggered by investigations by Global Witness and our partners in the UK, Nigeria and Italy, including Taking the Future, which has been cited to evidence the extent of the harm done. To date, the legal action has resulted in $70m being returned to Nigeria and, in 2020, a private jet was seized and around $120m was frozen.
In a huge disappointment to campaigners in Europe and Nigeria, Shell and Eni were found not guilty by the Italian court in early 2021 and we await the reasons to hear how this decision was reached. Despite this verdict, there is a possibility of an appeal and criminal trials continue in Nigeria against Shell and Eni’s Nigerian subsidiaries and against the former Nigerian Attorney General, in which they have all pleaded not guilty.
Nigeria has refused to allow the companies to develop the oil field and their license is due to run out in May 2021, making it increasingly likely that the scandal will stop one of Africa’s biggest new oil fields being drilled.