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Malabu Bribe: Italian Court Postpones Trial Of Shell, ENI, Dan Etete



An Italian court in Milan yesterday postponed till May 14 the start of a trial of executives of Royal Dutch Shell, ENI and former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete, over alleged bribery in connection with the sale of a block owned by Malabu Oil.

The case involves the 2011 purchase by Eni and Shell of Nigeria of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oilfield– one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks – for about $1.3 billion.

The chief executive officer, Eni, Claudio Descalzi, his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni and several officials from Eni and Shell are among those who will face the judge. Eni was also charged with corruption in Algeria in a separate trial while Shell stand accused of handing out bribes during the 2011 purchase of OPL245, an offshore oil block estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of crude, for $1.3 billion.

Both companies deny the charges against them.

“Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct,” the Italian firm said in a statement.

Shell also said it believed the judges would conclude there was no case against them, adding “there is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”

The 2011 deal with the Nigerian government aimed to end years of litigation over the OPL245 block between Shell and Dan Etete’s Oil and Gas Malabu company.

Etete, a former Nigerian oil minister under the former military ruler, General  Sani Abacha, appropriated the block in 1998, selling it to Malabu, a company he secretly owned. The licence was subsequently revoked by the government and then transferred to Shell and then again to Malabu, resulting in major litigation.

After taking office in 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan resumed negotiations on the highly coveted block. According to Global Witness, the deal resulted in $1.1 billion being paid into an account in London opened by government officials — and going directly to Etete — and $210 million to the government.

Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the EFCC, filed corruption charges against Shell and Eni in March 2017, accusing 11 defendants, including Etete, of “official corruption” in connection with the deal.



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