All you need to know about the 3-year legal fireworks, the Nigerian Government’s next move on the $1.3bn biggest oil scandal in Nigeria’s history
An Italian court has provided detailed reason for its judgement with which it acquitted two oil majors; Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, on Wednesday in the Malabu Oil massive corruption case.
The case involving $1.3 billion oil block sale was the biggest corruption scandal to hit the industry.
Judge Marco Tremolada of the Italian Court read out the sentence in the Milan court on Wednesday, stating that the companies and 13 defendants charged in the case had been acquitted as there was no case to answer.
Among those charged in the case were current Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and his predecessor Paolo Scaroni.
Prosecutors called for the managers to be jailed and the companies to be fined, as well as confiscating $1.1 billion from the defendants.
The ruling comes three years after the trial kicked off and after over 74 hearings.
Wednesday’s ruling could still be appealed but the Federal Government, which said it would review the verdict and then consider whether to appeal, expressed its disappointment in a statement released shortly after the Italian court’s decision was announced.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria is disappointed in today’s ruling in Milan, but thanks the Italian prosecuting authorities for their tireless efforts,” a government spokesman said.
The statement added that Nigeria “will continue to hold those responsible for the OPL 245 fraud accountable.”
The government said it would review the verdict and then consider whether to appeal.
Shell ordered to pay for Niger Delta oil spills
The case concerned the 2011 purchase of the OPL 245 offshore oilfield in Nigeria.
Shell and Eni paid $1.3 billion (€1.09 billion) to buy the massive oilfield from Malabu Oil and Gas — a firm that was owned by former Nigerian Oil Minister, Dan Etete.
Italian prosecutors argued that $1.1 billion of the purchase price were bribes that landed in the pockets of middlemen and politicians, including former oil minister Etete.
Prosecutors also argued that Shell and Eni knew that most of the money was being used towards bribes.
Both firms have denied the charges.
The case landed in court after three anti-corruption NGOs brought a complaint before prosecutors in Milan.
Both firms welcomed the ruling, with Shell saying that it has always maintained that the oilfield purchase was legal.
“At the same time, this has been a difficult learning experience for us. Shell is a company that operates with integrity and we work hard every day to ensure our actions not only follow the letter and spirit of the law, but also live up to society’s wider expectations of us,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell said in a statement.
Eni welcomes Judgement
In a similar development, Eni also said in a separate statement sent to New Telegraph that it welcomed the judgement.
“Eni welcome today’s judgment of full acquittal of all charges, since there was no case, by the Court of Milan. After almost three years of trial, the judgment by the Court has finally established that the company, the CEO Claudio Descalzi and the management involved in the proceedings have all behaved in a lawful and correct manner.
“Eni has throughout maintained its full confidence in the Court’s fair and balanced investigation.
“Today, Eni expresses its gratitude for the trust placed by its stakeholders throughout the course of the trial, particularly in upholding the company’s management and the conduct of its business, and respecting its reputation.”