Skip to content

Court Throws Out Nigerian Bid to Make Oil Firms Pay

An Italian court has acquitted energy groups Eni and Shell of $1.1-billion corruption charges related to an oil exploration deal in Nigeria in the biggest corruption scandal in the industry. The long-running case concerns the 2011 purchase by Eni and Shell of a giant offshore oilfield in Nigeria estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude. Prosecutors alleged the companies paid bribes to secure the field. They paid $1.3 billion dollars for a licence on OPL 245 to buy the oilfield that was owned by former Nigerian Oil Minister, Dan Etete. They argue that $1.1 billion of the purchase price were bribes that went to middlemen and politicians, including Etete. The money was paid into a Nigerian government bank account in London, but Italian prosecutors believe that $1.1 billion ended up lining the pockets of Nigerian politicians and middlemen, including former oil minister Dan Etete. But judges in Milan cleared Eni, Shell and 13 defendants, including Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi and his predecessor Paolo Scaroni, a spokesman for Eni said. Prosecutors called for the managers to be jailed and the companies to be fined, as well as confiscating $1.1 billion from the defendants.  Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, welcomed the ruling, saying: “We have always maintained that the 2011 settlement was legal, designed to resolve a decade-long legal dispute and unlock development of the OPL 245 block. Nigeria’s government has said it is disappointed and would review the verdict and consider whether to appeal..