$190m frozen in UK and Switzerland in OPL 245 bribery case as ENI CEO is named as suspect

Nigeria 2011, gas flaring dagli impianti Agip, foto Luca Tommasini
Nigeria 2011, gas flaring dagli impianti Agip, foto Luca Tommasini

11 September 2014

$190m frozen in UK and Switzerland in OPL 245 bribery case as ENI CEO is named as suspect

Global Witness, Re: Common and Dotun Oloko welcome the freezing of funds as part of the continuing investigation into the deal for the OPL 245 oil block in Nigeria. Italian authorities are investigating the acquisition of the Nigerian oil block OPL 245 for which subsidiaries of Eni and Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay US$1.1billion in 2011.

Shell and ENI have claimed that they only paid the Nigerian Government. Eni has said in a statement that “Eni continues to deny any illegal conduct” and “Eni is cooperating with the Milan prosecutor’s office, and is confident that the correctness of its actions will emerge during the course of the investigation.”

The funds frozen today are thought to be held by Malabu and its middleman Energy Venture Partners.

“The freezing of $190m in proceeds from the OPL 245 oil deal is good news for the people of Nigeria many of whom live in poverty despite the country’s oil wealth. $1.1bn was diverted from the public purse, this needs to be recovered as well as get to the bottom of the role companies and individuals played in this heist.” Said Dotun Oloko, a Nigerian anti-corruption activist.

“This case shows precisely why the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States needs to establish a strong transparency rule for provision 1504 of the Dodd Frank Act.  This will require companies to disclose their payments for oil projects so that they don’t go missing.  Had an operational rule for 1504 been in place in April 2011, when the deal for OPL-245 was concluded, this would have shed crucial light on a process that was conducted hidden away behind closed doors.” Said Simon Taylor, Global Witness director.

“The naming of Claudio Descalzi, ENI’s new CEO, its outgoing CEO Paolo Scaroni and Roberto Casula its Chief development, operations and technology officer as suspects in the Italian bribery investigation should raise concerns in Italy about ethics standards in state owned companies. Today’s news demonstrates our concerns around Descalzi’s controversial appointment and represents a further setback for the Italian government which failed to achieve reform in a vote at the             company AGM. Bold action against alleged mismanagement by ENI managers is urgently needed.” Said Antonio Tricarico, programme director, Re: Common


Barnaby Pace, Oil Team, Global Witness bpace@globalwitness.org +44 7525 592 738

Simon Taylor, Director, Global Witness staylor@globalwitness.org  +44 7957 142 121

Antonio Tricarico, Programme Director, Re: Common atricarico@recommon.org  , +39 328 84 85 448


‘What Nigerians could have done with $1.1bn?’ – Available here: http://www.globalwitness.org/shellagm/


1. Shell and Eni have denied paying money to Malabu.  Indeed they did pay the money to the Nigerian government.  However court evidence has revealed that Shell and ENI knew that the payment was going to Malabu and had negotiated directly with former oil minister Chief Dan Etete an owner of the company who awarded Malabu the block in 1998 while in office.

2. Global Witness together with Re: Common and Nigerian anti-corruption activist Dotun Oloko has asked for action over these funds in the past and commented on the investigation, please see our previous publications for further details:

Italian authorities raid ENI in fresh investigation into billion dollar Nigerian oil scandal, 4 July 2014 http://www.globalwitness.org/library/italian-authorities-raid-eni-fresh-investigation-billion-dollar-nigerian-oil-scandal

UK Crown Prosecution Service fails to block proceeds of corrupt Nigerian oil deal, 5 June 2014, http://www.globalwitness.org/library/uk-crown-prosecution-service-fails-block-proceeds-corrupt-nigerian-oil-deal

New head of Italian oil giant Eni must explain role in corrupt Nigerian oil deal at AGM, 7 May 2014, http://www.globalwitness.org/library/new-head-italian-oil-giant-eni-must-explain-role-corrupt-nigerian-oil-deal-agm

Corrupt Nigerian oil deal loot to be distributed by UK Court, 25 March 2014, http://www.globalwitness.org/library/corrupt-nigerian-oil-deal-loot-be-distributed-uk-court

3. In the July 2013 UK High Court case of Energy Venture Partners Versus Malabu Oil and Gas, Lady Justice Gloster of the Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial Court ruled, “I find as a fact that, from its incorporation and at all material times, Chief Etete had a substantial beneficial interest in Malabu”, Approved Judgement, Case 2011 FOLIO-792 17 July 2013. The Nigerian House of Representatives investigation into the case also found Dan Etete is the 30% owner of Malabu.  See also Global Witness, 25 November 2013, “The Scandal of Nigerian Oil Block OPL 245”, http://www.globalwitness.org/library/scandal-nigerian-oil-block-opl-245

4. ENI’s statement is available at http://www.eni.com/en_IT/media/press-releases/2014/09/2014-09-11-opl-245.shtml?home_2010_en_tab=editorial

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