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Eni and Shell go on trial over Nigeria kickback scandal

Milan, Italy | AFP | Oil giants Eni and Shell go on trial in Milan on Monday, charged with bribery and corruption in the purchase of an offshore oilfield in Nigeria.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, his predecessor Paolo Scaroni and several officials from Eni and Shell are among those facing the judge.

Ex-Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete is also on trial.

Eni — also charged with corruption in Algeria in a separate trial — and 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.

The agreement allegedly saw Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan and his oil minister Etete pocket bribes, according to corruption watchdog Global Witness.

“Eni and Shell closed the deal with the government without the involvement of an intermediary. The money… was deposited into an account owned by the Nigerian government,” said Eni, which has regularly reaffirmed its trust in Descalzi.

– Major litigation –

Descalzi made it clear last year that Shell and Eni had not been “involved in the government’s decision on how to use the money”.

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.

A former oil minister under the dictator Sani Abacha, Etete 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.

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