Nigeria Charges Shell, Eni with Corruption

Published: 03 March 2017

2770193028 68edc662a9 bOil pump jack stock image (Photo: Paul Lowry, CC BY 2.0)

By Karina Shedrofsky

Nigeria’s anti-graft agency filed corruption charges on Thursday against oil giants Shell, Eni and nine others for paying US$ 801 million to Nigerian businessmen and politicians in exchange for an oil prospecting license.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also charged three officials and the local oil company for receiving the bribe in 2011, according to court documents.

The controversial offshore oil deal highlights deep-rooted corruption in the business. This is the latest of several probes into the controversial 2011 US$ 1.3 billion purchase of an oil exploration block located in the Gulf of Guinea estimated to hold at least 9 billion barrels of crude oil.

Last month a Milan prosecutor filed charges against Eni, alleging that the US$ 1.3 billion paid by Eni and Shell was funneled through the Nigerian government into the pockets of the country’s then oil minister and others as bribes, Financial Times reported.

The EFCC slapped the new charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and official corruption on Thursday after it found new evidence, Jonson Ojogbane, an EFCC senior prosecutor told Reuters.

A Nigerian court in January ordered the temporary seizure of the oilfield, local media reported.

Both Eni and Shell have denied any wrongdoing, according to AFP.

"At every stage, we have acted in compliance with all applicable law . . . Eni and Shell paid the government of Nigeria, and were not involved with the government decision on how to use such money," Claudio Descalzi — former head of the Eni’s exploration and production business at the time of the purchase— told the Financial Times.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 following a campaign flavored with anti-corruption rhetoric and talk of discipline after what was seen as lackluster efforts by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to take on cronyism.