An Italian court yesterday fixed July 20 as the next trial date for alleged bribery charges against executives of oil giants (ENI and Shell Royal Dutch Shell) and Nigeria’s ex-oil minister Dan Etete in what seems to be the biggest corruption scandal facing Nigeria’s oil sector.
The judge is also to decide on July 20 if the Nigerian government becomes a part of the hearings as a party that suffered damages, businessdayonline reports.
The trial was originally scheduled for may this year, but was postponed to June. In 2011, Shell and Eni allegedly transferred $ 1.3 billion to a Bank account in Nigeria. Both companies wanted to secure the rights to the oil field called OPL245, which, according to oil companies, cost $ 3 billion. However, most of the payments did not get to the Nigerian Treasury, but went to a company called Malabu Oil & Gas, which was controlled by the then Minister of oil Etete.
Prosecutors in Milan claimed that $ 520 million from the deal was converted into cash and intended to be paid to then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, government members and other government officials from Nigeria. They also said that $ 50 million in cash was also delivered to the house of Eni Executive Director Roberto Kasula.
The charges are that the $ 520 million purchase price was converted into cash and paid to politicians as a bribe. It is said that only $ 210 million in profits in Nigeria’s cashier’s office. The government of Nigeria has already stated in a lawsuit in England that the purchase of a license for the production of a huge oil field in 2011 was illegal. The case is also being investigated by prosecutors in the United States and the Netherlands.
Executive Director of Eni Claudio Descalzi, former CEO Paolo Scaroni and the chief officer for technology and technology Roberto Casula, appeared in court along with four former employees of Royal Dutch Shell, including the former Executive Director of operations for Shell’s Upstream International Malcolm Brinded and two former MI6 agents Colegate guy, a business consultant; and John Copleston, strategic investment adviser, allegedly hired by Shell for the payment of a bribe of millions of dollars to obtain a lucrative license for the exploration and drilling of oil in Nigeria.
Barnaby Pace, an investigator from the Global Witness (Global Witness) on oil, said that the trial could be a “turning point” for the oil industry.
“Some of the top managers of the two largest companies in the world can go to jail for a deal made under their supervision,” pace added.
Last month, Barnaby pace said that the key to the case could be a briefcase seized from a Geneva apartment two years ago by Swiss prosecutors during a RAID on another investigation in 2016. “The bag contained SIM cards, Nigerian passports, a laptop and a hard drive with more than 40,000 documents and belonged to Emek Obi, the only shareholder of the company that acted as a mediator between Eni and Dan Etete, Nigeria’s oil Minister,” said a representative of the Geneva Prosecutor’s office.
The Milan corruption case also highlights the role that London plays in facilitating the transfer of money from oil companies to government officials.