Unprecedented corporate bribery trial begins against Shell, Eni, CEO and executives

Landmark trial sees senior former Shell executives and CEO of Eni in the dock for billion dollar Nigerian oil scandal

On Monday 5th March Royal Dutch Shell and Italian oil giant Eni, along with a number of their senior executives, face charges of aggravated international corruption for their role in a $1.1bn deal for a Nigerian oil block.

No company as large as Royal Dutch Shell or such senior executives of a major oil company have ever stood trial for bribery offences.

“This trial should be a wake-up call to the oil industry. Some of the most senior executives of two of the biggest companies in the world could face prison sentences for a deal that was struck under their watch,” said Barnaby Pace of Global Witness.

“This trial is a clear signal that it is no longer business as usual for oil companies in Nigeria. It’s time justice was served.” Said Lanre Suraju, Chairman of Nigerian NGO Human and Environmental Development Agenda.

Eni’s current CEO Claudio Descalzi, former CEO Paolo Scaroni, Chief Operations and Technology Officer Roberto Casula are also standing trial alongside four former Royal Dutch Shell staff members including Malcolm Brinded CBE, former Executive Director for Shell’s Upstream International operations and two former MI6 agents employed by Shell.

The prosecution by the Milan public prosecutor was triggered by a complaint filed in Autumn 2013 by Global Witness, The Corner House, Re:Common and Nigerian anti-corruption campaigner Dotun Oloko. The case has also been investigated in Nigeria and the United States following the groups’ complaints. Public prosecutors in The Netherlands are also investigating the case.
Shell, Eni and their executives have denied all charges.

Antonio Tricarico of Italian NGO Re:Common said, “This case heralds the dawning of the age of accountability, a world where even the most powerful corporations can no longer hide their wrongdoing and avoid justice.”

For years, Shell had claimed that it only paid the Nigerian Government for the oil block. But after the joint investigations of Global Witness and Finance Uncovered, Shell confessed it had dealt with convicted money launderer and former oil minister Dan Etete. Etete had awarded the OPL 245 oil block to his secretly owned company, Malabu, while serving as oil minister.

The case against Eni and Shell brought by the Milan Public Prosecutor alleges that $520 million from the deal was converted into cash and intended to be paid to the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, members of the government and other Nigerian government officials. The prosecutor further alleges that money was also channelled to Eni and Shell executives with $50 million in cash delivered to the home of Eni’s then Head of Business for Sub-Saharan Africa, Roberto Casula.

“This is not a case involving a few rotten apples,” said Nick Hildyard of Corner House. “The evidence points to systemic corruption – from the top down. In this case Italy has championed the rule of law over abusive corporate power.”

A Shell spokesperson referred Global Witness to the company’s statement following the company’s indictment “We are disappointed by the outcome of the preliminary hearing and the decision to indict Shell and its former employees.  We believe the trial judges will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees.”

Eni has said in a statement on their website regarding the case that the trial “will give the opportunity to Eni to fully defend its position and to provide full evidence of the correctness of the actions taken with respect to the OPL 245 transaction.”

Regarding the allegations against Eni’s CEO the company has said “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 Board of Directors also confirmed its full confidence that chief executive Claudio Descalzi was not involved in the alleged illegal conduct and, more broadly, in his role as head of the company. Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct.”


Contact: Ava Lee, Global Witness, alee@globalwitness.org  +44 7500876452
Barnaby Pace, Global Witness, bpace@globalwitness.org +44 7525592738
Luca Manes, Re:Common, lmanes@recommon.org  +39 335 5721837

Notes to editors:

  1. Nigerian authorities have also filed charges against a Shell subsidiary and Eni as well as several of their staff. A trial is pending against the companies and Mohammed Adoke, the former Nigerian Minister of Justice and Attorney General who has been charged with money laundering over his receipt of $2.2m in alleged proceeds of the OPL 245 deal. Nigerian authorities have said they intend to extradite Mr Adoke. Mr Adoke denies the charges and claims the money came from a legitimate property deal.
  2. The Nigerian government recently successfully recovered US$85m in proceeds of the deal from the UK. The money had previously been frozen as suspected proceeds of crime at the request of Italian authorities. The Nigerian government has also issued a billion dollar civil claim against JP Morgan for their role as a banker to the deal. JP Morgan has stated that they consider the allegation against them to be “unsubstantiated and without merit”.
  3. Goodluck Jonathan’s statement addressing the allegations against him is available  at http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/220059-breaking-malabu-oil-deal-jonathan-breaks-silence-bribe-allegation.html
  4. Dan Etete’s response to the public allegations against him is available at: https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2017/02/08/etete-government-did-not-invest-a-dime-in-malabu-oil/
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