Bribery Trial Postponed for Shell and Eni Oil Companies
A corruption trial of Royal Dutch Shell and Eni executives that was to start on Monday was postponed by the court in Milan until May 14, according to Reuters.
The case is estimated to take more than a year to complete.
Milan prosecutors accused the oil company executives of having paid bribes in order to win licenses to scout an oilfield off the Nigerian coast for US$ 1.3 billion in 2011.
Both Shell and Eni own half of the oilfield, which, the Guardian reports, may contain 9.3 billion barrels of crude oil but has yet to be fully explored. The oil exploration block, known as Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, covers over 2,000 kilometers.
Prosecutors have alleged that the companies won the deal by transferring $1.1 billion of the $1.3 billion to Dan Etete, the former Nigerian oil minister. Etete was convicted in 2007 of money laundering in a French case prior to the Shell and Eni deal. The court has accused him of spending $300 million of the amount on expenses ranging from cars to other luxury goods.
Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s former head of exploration and production, and Claudio Descalzi, Eni’s chief executive officer, are among the executives charged.
In leaked emails reported by the BBC, Shell is shown arranging the deal with Etete. However, Shell disputes that any illegal payments were made with the company’s knowledge.
Both Shell and Eni have released statements claiming the allegations will not stand in court.
Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency filed charges in 2017 against both Shell and Eni as well as nine others for paying $801 million to Nigerian businessmen and politicians in a case related to the alleged bribery.