Nigeria on the verge of winning corruption case against British and Italian oil companies


After discarding a suit filed against Shell and ENI over a decade and a half ago, a Milan court is to decide reopen the criminal proceedings against the two giant oil companies accused of having hands in the illegal purchase of the rights to a Nigerian oil field.

A confidential emails publish by a British anticorruption organization, Global Witness reopened this corruption trial against Dan Etete, money launderer and former Nigerian Oil Minister and his allies, Shell and ENI. This email that reads: “Etete can smell the money. If, at 70 years old, he does turn his nose up at 1.2 billion he is completely certifiable.” – has given the Italian court enough room to finally go ahead with the case – as it show that Shell, that initially denied its involvement in the case, is a principal culprit in the scandal.

In 2011, it was confirmed that Shell and the Italian oil giant ENI transferred a sum of $1.3 billion (1.2 billion euros) to a bank account owned by the Nigerian government. With this payment, the two concerns wanted to secure the rights to one of Africa’s largest oil fields. However, a huge share of the money did not end up in the real beneficiary’s account; instead, it went to a company called Malabu which was controlled by Dan Etete, former oil minister under Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacaha who was also convicted of money laundering in a separate case in France in 2007.

Report gathered from very reliable sources show that Etete was compelled to hand over a substantial fraction of the bribes his company received to high-ranking Nigerian politicians – most surprisingly with constant appearance of the name Goodluck Jonathan, the former Nigerian president.

According to DW correspondent, unlike Shell, however, ENI, continued to insist that it only dealt with the Nigerian government authorities and nobody else. In a written statement addressed to DW, the company said that “an independent inquiry commissioned by ENI found no evidence that ENI employees were engaged in corrupt deals in connection with financial transactions, or had any knowledge of such deals through third parties.”

Barnaby Pace from Global Witness views these remarks with suspicion. “Shell and ENI, its Italian partner, knew very well that they had paid the money for the oil field to a convicted money launderer,” Pace told DW. Global Witness activists believe that the oil concerns did not only break the law with their deal, they also swindled the Nigerian population. “Five million people are going hungry in Nigeria at the moment. At the same time, money has been taken away from those who are entitled to it – more than a billion dollars. That is one and a half times the sum which the United Nations says is needed to combat Nigeria’s current humanitarian crisis,” Pace said.

Authorities in six countries are involved in investigations into the activities of Shell and ENI. So far, more than $100 million in assets has been frozen in Switzerland and the UK as Court proceedings are expected in Nigeria as well as in Italy. Nigerian legislators at the house of representatives have already set up a committee to investigate the award of the rights. The oil fields are estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of crude, which if recovered and properly utilized can spring up the economic condition of the country.

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