Report | April 10, 2017

Shell Knew

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It’s one of the biggest corruption scandals in the history of the oil sector – and this is the biggest development so far.

Damning new evidence shows oil giant Shell took part in a vast bribery scheme that robbed the Nigerian people of over a billion dollars. Download the full report (pdf)

Read our update blog: We exposed what Shell knew - here's what happened next

Internal Shell emails seen by Finance Uncovered and Global Witness show how the world’s fifth biggest company took part in a scheme which deprived Nigeria and its people of $1.1 billion in a murky deal for access to one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks, known as OPL 245. 

For years, Shell has denied it did anything wrong, but today’s emails show they knew the money would be diverted to private hands, and they went ahead with the deal anyway.

This is devastating for the people of Nigeria. Right now five million of them face starvation. The money paid for the block equates to one and a half times what the UN says is needed to respond to the current famine crisis. But the Nigerian people saw none of the benefits. 

What the leaked emails show

The emails we have published today show senior executives knew the massive payment for the oil block would go to Dan Etete – a convicted money launderer and former Nigerian oil minister. He spent some of it on a private jet, armoured cars, and shotguns.

The emails also show Shell’s top brass were told that money was likely to flow to some of the most powerful people in the country, including then President Goodluck Jonathan.

He spoke to Mrs E this morning. She says E claims he will only get 300m we offering—rest goes in paying people off. - Shell representative and former MI6 agent John Copleston in a leaked email to Shell Africa executives. “E” is understood to be Dan Etete.

Shell portrays itself as an oil company that does good. Yet our investigation reveals a story of hypocrisy and deception, and finds the company’s most senior bosses depriving Nigeria of life-saving funds by going ahead with a dodgy deal that they knew was a vast bribery scheme.

For the full story of Shell, the convicted money launderer, and Nigeria’s missing billion, download the full investigation (pdf).

Help us expose the story

Only by exposing the truth can we bring Shell to justice and stop oil companies robbing people of what’s rightfully theirs. Please help by sharing the story:

Background: the OPL 245 deal

In 2011, Shell and the Italian oil company Eni paid $1.1. billion in a murky deal for this lucrative asset located off the coast of Nigeria. After a lengthy investigation, Global Witness tracked down documents showing that this money didn’t go to benefit the Nigerian people as it should have done. Instead it went to convicted money launderer and former oil Minister, Dan Etete, who had awarded himself ownership of the block in 1998 via a company he secretly owned, Malabu Oil and Gas.

For six years, Shell has denied it did anything wrong, and said it only dealt with the Nigerian government in securing rights to the block. This latest investigation shows that Shell’s senior executives knew where the money was really going. See the evidence and get the full story:

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