This is the end of a river trial, during which Paolo Scaroni, CEO of the Italian group Eni at the time of the events, and his successor, Claudio Descalzi, at the head of the oil company since 2014, were sentenced, in July 2020, to a sentence of eight years in prison by the Milan public prosecutor’s office. The former managing director of the Exploration and Production division of Shell, Malcolm Brinded, was facing seven years and four months in prison.
Eni-Shell case in Nigeria: accused of corruption, the boss of Eni plays his future at the helm
“For lack of sufficient evidence”, the Milan Court of Appeal decided to withdraw the appeal it had filed, and year to the day, against Eni and Shell, in a vast corruption case in Nigeria. Italian justice suspected the two majors of having illegally allocated $1.092 billion of the $1.3 billion invested to “fraudulently” be granted the right to operate the offshore oil block OPL 245.
Hydrocarbons: the hidden face of Nigerian black gold
The 15 defendants in this case had been acquitted at first instance, in March 2021, before the deputy prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale decided to appeal the decision, thus prolonging the suspense around this legal saga. “After more than eight years of costly investigations and legal proceedings that damaged the image and reputation of the company […]Eni and its leaders are definitively acquitted”, rejoices the Italian oil company which, like Shell, firmly contested any attempt at embezzlement.
At the heart of this gigantic affair of poor oil governance in Nigeria, Dan Etete, former Nigerian Minister of Oil (1995-2007) and first beneficiary of the disputed deal, also cleared of corruption charges by the Italian courts. At the head of Malabu Oil & Gas, the ex-minister was accused of having secretly self-assigned, in 1998, the offshore block OPL 245, one of the richest oil fields on the continent with a capacity estimated at nearly 9 billion barrels of crude. While no activity was reported on this field between 1998 and 2010, the company went into business with Eni and Shell via several intermediaries including the Russian Ednan Agaev, the Nigerian Emeka Obi and the Italian Gianluca Di Nardo , responsible for facilitating exchanges between Dan Etete and the two majors.
Nigeria: Dan Etete, black gold launderer
Beyond the two oil groups, JP Morgan was also implicated in this case after agreeing to transfer the funds to the Malabu account. After a standoff in the British courts, last June, the High Court in London ruled: “JP Morgan has not committed any breach of its obligations”. Nigeria’s $1.7 billion claim in what will go down as the country’s biggest oil scandal has been dropped. “A huge setback in the fight against corruption”, deplores the British organization Spotlight on Corruption.