NGOs and activists are today disappointed and outraged as Shell and Eni - two of the worlds biggest polluters - were found not guilty of corruption relating to the purchase of a Nigerian oilfield, in a Milan trial. Global Witness urges the prosecution to consider all options to appeal this verdict and continues to follow ongoing criminal investigations into the case in Nigeria and the Netherlands.

Barnaby Pace, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness, said:

“Today's legal verdict is a disappointment but it will not stop us in our unrelenting quest to ensure accountability in the fossil fuel industry." 

“We urge the Milan prosecutor’s office to consider all options for an appeal. We await the details of how the judges reached this ruling, but believe that this verdict shows just how hard it is to hold the fossil fuel industry to account."

“This verdict must not mark a return to business as usual. It is no vindication for either company, nor the industry as a whole who continue to put our planet at risk and cut short the lives of its inhabitants with their toxic practices.”

“Two middlemen have already been found guilty for their role in this deal in a separate trial. A criminal trial of Shell and Eni’s Nigerian subsidiaries is ongoing in Nigeria while they also face an investigation in The Netherlands where Shell has said they expect to face criminal charges. Today’s verdict does not mark the final word in this scandal for Shell and Eni.”

Both companies had been on trial since 2018, relating to their 2011 purchase of an offshore Nigerian oilfield, known as “OPL 245”. Shell and Eni agreed to pay $1.3 billion for the license to explore the field. $1.1bn of the company’s payment was to be paid to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company controlled by Nigeria’s former Oil Minister, Dan Etete. Etete had awarded his own company the license while in government. Etete had also previously been convicted of money laundering in France. He stood trial in the case alongside Shell, Eni and several of their current and former executives.

Following investigations and campaigning by NGOs HEDA, Global Witness, Re:Common and The Corner House, criminal investigations into the deal were launched in Italy, Nigeria, The Netherlands, UK, US and Switzerland. Several criminal trials related to the case are ongoing. Shell and Eni’s subsidiaries have pleaded not guilty in Nigeria and denied wrongdoing.

Information on the ruling

The panel of judges in Milan today found not guilty 15 defendants in the trial and their sentences. They were all charged with aggravated International Corruption. The written ruling explaining the judge’s reasoning should be handed down in 90 days time.

The defendants were:

  • Royal Dutch Shell 
  • Eni S.p.A. 
  • Claudio Descalzi (Current Eni CEO) 
  • Paolo Scaroni (Former Eni CEO) 
  • Roberto Casula (Current Eni executive) 
  • Ciro Pagano (Current Eni executive)
  • Vincenzo Armanna (Former Eni executive) 
  • Malcolm Brinded (Former Shell head of exploration and production) 
  • Peter Robinson (Former Shell head of sub-saharan Africa) 
  • Guy Colegate (Former Shell staff) 
  • John Coplestone (Former Shell staff) 
  • Dan Etete (Former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum)
  • Ednan Agaev (Middleman) 
  • Luigi Bisignani (Middleman 
  • Gianfranco Falcioni (Middleman) 

In 2018 a separate, fast-tracked trial for two middlemen involved in the OPL245 deal found both to be guilty of the same charges Shell and Eni were accused of.