Oil giants, Royal Dutch Shell says Italian officials are investigating its role in the purchase of an offshore oil block in Nigeria for more than $1 billion. The probe is connected to the 2011 $1.3bn purchase of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oil block by Italian oil firm Eni and Shell Nigeria. Activists including the watchdog group Global Witness, say the money ultimately went to a company secretly owned by a former Nigerian oil minister and never reached state coffers.
Global Witness and other groups filed a complaint in 2015 with the public prosecutor in Milan that the group says describes Shell Nigeria’s role in the transaction. Eni was already being investigated. In 2014 a Milan court started probing the Italian oil giant over allegations of corruption connected to the OPL-245 offshore oil block acquisition.
It has denied wrongdoing, and has said it dealt exclusively with the government of Nigeria, paid fees into a government account and did not use intermediaries for the transaction. Both firms have denied wrongdoing, as Shell Nigeria also claims it attaches the greatest importance to business integrity, being one of its core values.
As part of the investigation, Shell headquarters in The Hague were searched in February by Dutch police and prosecutors. A Shell spokesman confirms the firm has received notice of proceedings from the public prosecutor in Italy, and were cooperating with the Italian authorities.
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Italian daily Corriere della Sera reports that Italian prosecutors are working jointly with an anti-fraud team in the Netherlands in order to determine whether the two oil companies paid bribes to obtain licences for the Nigerian site.
Under the licensing accord, ENI made a payment to the Nigerian government of $1.09 billion to secure joint ownership while Shell, which already owned a 40-percent stake, handed over $200 million.
Most of this money was subsequently passed on to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company believed to be controlled by Chief Dan Etete, a former Nigerian Oil Minister between March 1995 and 1998. The controversial OPL 245 oil block said to hold about nine billion barrels of oil was alleged to have been fraudulently sold to Malabu Oil for a paltry sum by Dan Etete .
Until today, it was said that lawyers representing Malabu in the forfeiture of $83 million oil deal in British Courts were representing Etete, though he refuted and claimed to be a consultant to Malabu.