The Italian court postponed corruption case involving executives of oil giants ENI, Shell and Nigeria’s ex-oil minister Dan Etete to June 2018, the oil scam which is described as one of the largest corruption scandals ever witnessed in the global oil industry.
The Milan court postponed the case after the judge in the preliminary hearing forgot to read a page of the charges against Shell, leading to shell lawyers calling for a restart.
Eni’s current CEO Claudio Descalzi, former CEO Paolo Scaroni, and Chief Operations and Technology Officer Roberto Casula are standing trial alongside four former Royal Dutch Shell staff members including former executive director for Shell’s Upstream International operations Malcolm Brinded and two former MI6 agents Guy Colegate, a business adviser; and John Copleston, a strategic investment adviser employed by Shell for paying millions of dollars in bribes in order to acquire a lucrative oil exploration and drilling license in an oil block (OPL 245), which is said to have about 9 billion barrels of crude oil.
The deal was struck only five days after the company was incorporated with three shareholders; Mohammed Sani Abacha , Kweku Amafagha (a fake name allegedly created by Etete) and Hassan Hindu (wife of a former Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK) as Etete illegally awarded himself the oil block and paid only $2 million out of the $20 million legally required by the state.
The trial was originally scheduled for March 2018 but was postponed to May 2018. It all started in 2011 when Shell and Eni reportedly transferred $1.3 billion into a Nigerian government bank account. The two companies wanted to secure the rights to OPL 245, which according to estimates by the oil companies was worth $3 billion. However, the majority of the payments did not end up in the Nigerian treasury but went to a company called Malabu Oil & Gas, which was controlled by Etete.
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 accusations are that $520 million of the purchase price was converted into cash and paid to politicians as bribes. Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan also alleged to have profited from the cash. Only $210 million is said to have reached Nigeria’s treasury.
The Nigerian government already declared in a lawsuit in England that the 2011 purchase of the production license for the huge oil field was unlawful.
Shell, Eni and their executives have denied all charges. In 2007, Etete was convicted of illegal financial transactions in France and he is also supposed to stand trial in Milan but his whereabouts is unknown.
Milan is not the only place where court proceedings are taking place, also an environmental right group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) is asking a federal high court in Lagos to withdraw the operational licence of Shell and ENI. The case is also being investigated by public prosecutors in United States and Netherlands.