Punta Europe close to Malabo/Photo: Marathon Oil

The Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, along with a number of their senior executives, will on Monday face criminal charges in Milan, Italy, for alleged aggravated international corruption for their role in a $1.1bn deal for a Malabu Oil’s OPL 245.

This was made known in a statement on Saturday by the international corruption watchdog, the Global Witness.

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According to ThisDay, Global Witness noted that no company as large as Royal Dutch Shell or senior executives of a major oil company had ever stood trial for bribery offences.

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

The statement said: “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 had also been investigated in Nigeria and the United States following the groups’ complaints. Public prosecutors in the Netherlands are also investigating the case.”

Speaking about the coming landmark trial, Barnaby Pace of the Global Witness said: “This trial should signal a turning point in the way the oil industry has operated for far too long. Some of the most senior executives of two of the biggest companies in the world could face prison sentences for a deal struck under their watch. Shell has recently accused one of these former executives of taking kickbacks in a separate Nigerian deal.”

Speaking on the latest development, the Chairman Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA) Lanre Suraju, said: “This trial is a clear signal that it is no longer business as usual for oil companies in Nigeria. It’s time justice is served.”

Casula, who will also stand trial in Milan over the OPL 245 case, took a leave of absence from the company in April. He had told Reuters that because of the recent allegations made against him, he had decided to take a temporary leave of absence from work.

For years, Shell had claimed that it only paid the Nigerian government for the OPL 245. But after the joint investigations of Global Witness and the United Kingdom investigative journalism group, Finance Uncovered, Shell confessed it had dealings with “convicted money launderer and former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete.”

Global Witness claimed that 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 alleged 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.