Landmark trial sees senior former Shell executives and CEO of Eni in the dock for billion dollar Nigerian oil scandal
On Monday 14th May Royal Dutch Shell and Italian oil giant Eni, along with a number of their senior executives, face criminal charges in Milan of aggravated international corruption for their role in a $1.1bn deal for a Nigerian oil block.
No company as large as Royal Dutch Shell or such senior executives of a major oil company have ever stood trial for bribery offences.
This trial should signal a turning point in the way the oil industry has operated for far too long. Some of the most senior executives of two of the biggest companies in the world could face prison sentences for a deal struck under their watch. Shell has recently accused one of these former executives of taking kickbacks in a separate Nigerian deal. How long before Shell cracks over this case too? - Barnaby Pace, Global Witness.
“This trial is a clear signal that it is no longer business as usual for oil companies in Nigeria. It’s time justice was served.” Said Lanre Suraju, Chairman of Nigerian NGO Human and Environmental Development Agenda.
Eni’s current CEO Claudio Descalzi, former CEO Paolo Scaroni, and Chief Operations and Technology Officer Roberto Casula are also standing trial alongside four former Royal Dutch Shell staff members including Malcolm Brinded CBE, former Executive Director for Shell’s Upstream International operations and two former MI6 agents employed by Shell.
The prosecution by the Milan public prosecutor was triggered by a complaint filed in autumn 2013 by Global Witness, The Corner House, Re:Common and Nigerian anti-corruption campaigner Dotun Oloko. The case has also been investigated in Nigeria and the United States following the groups’ complaints. Public prosecutors in the Netherlands are also investigating the case.
This case heralds the dawning of the age of accountability, a world where even the most powerful corporations can no longer hide their wrongdoing and avoid justice. - Antonio Tricarico, Re:Common
Shell, Eni and their executives have denied all charges.
A Shell statement sent to Global Witness on 28th March 2018 said: “Shell filed a criminal complaint with the Dutch authorities because we suspect a crime may have been committed against Shell by a former employee in relation to the sale of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 42 in Nigeria in 2011. Based on what we know from an internal investigation, we suspect this is a case of possible kickbacks, related to the actions of a former employee who left Shell more than three years ago. The individual in question is Peter Robinson, then VP Commercial Sub-Saharan Africa.” Shell also stated “that based on what we know today, the OML 42 issue is unrelated to the OPL 245 settlement.”
An Eni executive Roberto Casula, who will also stand trial in Milan over the OPL 245 case, took a leave of absence from the company in April. Mr. Casula told Reuters in an emailed comment: “Noting the recent allegations made against me, and given the esteem in which I hold our business and colleagues, I have decided to take a temporary leave of absence from work. My primary objective is to fully and promptly address these allegations and cooperate to the fullest extent with the judicial authorities.”
For years, Shell had claimed that it only paid the Nigerian Government for the OPL 245 oil block. But after the joint investigations of Global Witness and UK investigative journalism group Finance Uncovered, Shell confessed it had dealt with convicted money launderer and former oil minister Dan Etete. Etete had awarded the OPL 245 oil block to his secretly owned company, Malabu, while serving as Oil Minister.
The case against Eni and Shell brought by the Milan Public Prosecutor alleges that $520 million from the deal was converted into cash and intended to be paid to the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, members of the government and other Nigerian government officials. The prosecutor further alleges that money was also channelled to Eni and Shell executives with $50 million in cash delivered to the home of Eni’s then Head of Business for Sub-Saharan Africa, Roberto Casula.
“This is not a case involving a few rotten apples,” said Nick Hildyard of Corner House. “The evidence points to systemic corruption – from the top down. In this case Italy has championed the rule of law over abusive corporate power.”
Spokespeople for Shell have referred Global Witness to the company’s statement following the company’s indictment “We are disappointed by the outcome of the preliminary hearing and the decision to indict Shell and its former employees. We believe the trial judges will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees.”
Eni has said in a statement on their website regarding the case that the trial “will give the opportunity to Eni to fully defend its position and to provide full evidence of the correctness of the actions taken with respect to the OPL 245 transaction.”
Regarding the allegations against Eni’s CEO the company has said: “Eni’s Board of Directors has reaffirmed its confidence that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction. The Board of Directors also confirmed its full confidence that chief executive Claudio Descalzi was not involved in the alleged illegal conduct and, more broadly, in his role as head of the company. Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct.”
Notes to editor:
authorities have also filed charges against a Shell subsidiary and Eni as well
as several of their staff. A trial is pending against the companies and
Mohammed Adoke, the former Nigerian Minister of Justice and Attorney General
who has been charged with money laundering over his receipt of $2.2m in alleged
proceeds of the OPL 245 deal. Nigerian authorities have said they intend to
extradite Mr Adoke. Mr Adoke denies the charges and claims the money came from
a legitimate property deal.
- The Nigerian government recently successfully
recovered US$85m in proceeds of the deal from the UK. The money had previously
been frozen as suspected proceeds of crime at the request of Italian
authorities. The Nigerian government has also issued a billion dollar civil
claim against JP Morgan for their role as a banker to the deal. JP Morgan has
stated that they consider the allegation against them to be “unsubstantiated
and without merit”.
- Goodluck Jonathan’s statement addressing the allegations against him is available at http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/220059-breaking-malabu-oil-deal-jonathan-breaks-silence-bribe-allegation.html
- Dan Etete’s response to the public allegations against him is available at: https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2017/02/08/etete-government-did-not-invest-a-dime-in-malabu-oil/
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