It was a reprieve for two world’s oil giants, Shell and Eni as an English court threw out a $1.1 billion case Nigeria had brought against Royal Dutch Shell and Eni related to a dispute over the OPL 245 oilfield, a court document has shown, while a related trial in Italy continues.
Since the disputed OPL 245 oilfield is in Nigeria, the government filed the case in 2018 at a commercial court in London alleging payments made by the companies to get the licence in 2011 were used for kickbacks and bribes.
In his ruling, Justice Butcher said that the High Court “must decline jurisdiction over the action against” Shell and the other defendants.
Eni, which has said it did nothing wrong, had no immediate comment. A Shell spokeswoman said the company welcomed the decision. “We maintain that the 2011 settlement related to OPL 245 was a fully legal transaction with Eni and the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), represented by the most senior officials of the relevant ministries,” she said.
Reacting to the Court’s ruling, a Nigerian senior official said in a statement that it was “naturally disappointed the Court has declined jurisdiction over its civil claim”.
The Nigerian official opined that the “Country continues to support the criminal proceedings underway in Milan and maintains that the separate civil proceedings in London have an entirely different legal basis, we intend to seek permission to appeal this decision.”
The OPL 245 oilfield is also central to a corruption trial in Milan in which former and current Shell and Eni officials are on the bench, as well as court proceedings Nigeria started against JP Morgan, which processed some of the payments in question.
However, the international bank pointed out that the allegations against it is unsubstantiated and without merit.
According to Shell spokeswoman, based on the company’s review of the Prosecutor of Milan’s file, just like the London’s ruling, it did not believe there was a case to answer hence judicial proceedings might likely be in its favour.