Italian Federal Court has ordered the Italian giant Eni and Shell Petroleum company to stand trial in Italy over bribery and corruption allegedly committed in 2011 purchase of an offshore OPL 245 oil block in Nigeria
A judge in Milan who endorsed their trial on Wednesday also ordered Chief executive of Eni , Claudio Descalzi and his predecessor Paolo Scaroni to stand trial in proceedings scheduled to begin March 5, 2018.
The foreign companies are accused of corruption in the 2011 purchase of OPL245 ,
an offshore oil block also known as Malabu oil in Nigeria, estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of crude , for $ 1.3 billion.
Italian investigators and prosecutors had earlier indicted Shell and Agip for their role in the 2011 deal in which Nigeria sold the lucrative oil block to the two oil major companies.
Back home here, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in March this year filed corruption charges at the Federal High Court Abuja against former petroleum minister, Dan Etete, and a former Attorney-General, Bello Adoke, and 11 other Nigerians indicted in the deal, which was approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
But, the prosecution agency has not been able to arraign the defendants in the joint charge as some of them have gone on self exile.
“ Eni ’s Board of Directors has reaffirmed its confidence that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction ,” the Italian firm said in a statement Wednesday .
“Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct , ” it said .
It insisted in particular that “chief executive Claudio Descalzi was not involved in the alleged illegal conduct ” .
Both companies are charged with corruption in Nigeria over the accord , which allegedly saw Nigeria ’s former president Goodluck Jonathan and his oil minister pocket bribes .
The deal saw the Nigerian government act as an intermediary between the oil majors and Malabu Oil and Gas , a Nigerian company allegedly controlled by former petroleum minister Dan Etete whose ownership has become a subject of litigation between the family of later military President Sani Abacha and Etete on one hand and Abachas and Shell on the other hand.
Allegations of corruption and bribery have mounted in the years since , forcing Shell and Eni to repeatedly maintain that they acquired the rights to the lucrative block in line with Nigerian law .
According to foreign report, email exchanges between Shell management cited in a report by corruption watchdog Global Witness, that was cited by AFP , suggest that Shell was aware the money was likely to be funnelled to individuals , including Etete and Jonathan .
Etete was also ordered to stand trial by the Milan court .
Jonathan has denied receiving kickbacks , saying in January that he has not been “ accused , indicted or charged for corruptly collecting monies ” linked to the deal .
Andrew Orolua, Abuja.