Blog | Sept. 10, 2019

Timeline: The corporate corruption trial of the century

One year ago, one of the most important corruption trials ever began in Milan. In the dock are senior executives at two of the worlds biggest oil companies - Royal Dutch Shell and Eni. After years of investigating and campaigning Global Witness is pleased that justice may now be in sight. Over the past year we’ve been in Milan, watching the trial closely and with the next phase due to begin, check out some of the key milestones from the case with our interactive timeline:

The trial centres on a 2011 deal in which Shell and Eni paid over $1.1 billion for the rights to drill for oil in a block of water, named OPL 245, off the coast of Nigeria. At Global Witness we’ve been investigating this case ourselves for years and have tracked down evidence that shows this extraordinary sum of money was not used to the benefit of the people of Nigeria.

Instead, it went to a convicted money launderer and former Nigerian Oil Minister, Dan Etete. Using a company he secretly owned, Etete had awarded himself ownership of this block of water in 1998.  

Prosecutors in the case allege that the $1.1 billion was then used to fuel a massive bribery scheme that paid off senior Nigerian Government Officials, including the former President Goodluck Jonathan, although Jonathan denies these allegations and has not been charged. 

In April 2017 we published leaked emails that showed senior executives at Shell knew the money they paid would end up in the hands of Dan Etete, as well as other Nigerian individuals involved in the bribery scheme. 

The impact of this is very real - $1.1 billion is a significant sum of money that could transform the lives of people in Nigeria. In 2017, during a devastating famine, this amount of money was one and a half times what the UN said was needed to respond to the crisis.  

Following a break in hearings during August, the trial is now set to resume. Global Witness will continue to follow events closely, up until the expected end in early 2020. 


  • Barnaby Pace

    Senior Campaigner, Fossil Gas


  • Barnaby Pace

    Senior Campaigner, Fossil Gas

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