Nigeria Loses $1.3bn Graft Appeal Against Eni, Shell

July 21, 2022
Nigeria's budget deficit

By Adedapo Adesanya

An Appeal Court in Milan, Italy, has dropped criminal proceedings in a Nigeria corruption case to the tune of $1.3 billion, finalising the acquittal of multi-national oil companies, Eni and Shell.

Reuters reported on Thursday that the court acknowledged the dropping of the proceedings on Tuesday, adding that it also acquit managers of the oil majors including Eni’s chief executive officer, Mr Claudio Descalzi.

According to the news agency, General prosecutor Celestina Gravina, in an unprecedented move in a Milan court, had filed a waiver request at the start of the appeal trial earlier on Tuesday, saying the case had no grounds.

The Tribunal Prosecutor’s Office, which is a separate body, and the Nigerian government had previously sought to appeal a March 2021 ruling acquitting the two companies and defendants.

Reuters reports that the appeal will now only continue for the civil proceedings, as Nigeria has sued for compensation.

In November 2021, the Attorney General’s Office decided not to refer to the Supreme Court an appeal for the acquittal of two consultants in a separate case related to the Nigeria graft trial.

The main case revolved around a deal in which Eni and Shell acquired the OPL 245 offshore oilfield in 2011 to settle a long-standing dispute over ownership.

Prosecutors alleged that just under $1.1 billion of the total amount was siphoned off to politicians and middlemen.

The First Instance Court in Milan said in March 2021 there was no case to answer and acquitted the companies and all other defendants.

“We have always maintained that the 2011 settlement was legal,” a Shell spokesperson said at the time, while Eni confirmed its total extraneousness to the contested facts.

In June 2021, two prosecutors in the case were placed under official investigation by magistrates for allegedly not filing documents that would have supported Eni’s position.

Italy’s justice ministry ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the pair.

On Eni and Shell’s part, there were clamours that there were to be fined alongside the call for prosecution of a number of past and present managers from both companies, including Mr Descalzi.

The defendants all denied any wrongdoing and said the purchase price for OPL 245 was paid into a Nigerian government account and subsequent transfers were beyond their control.

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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