Eni and Shell on trial in Italy over Nigeria ‘corruption’
Two global oil giants, Eni and Shell, are to stand trial in Italy over allegations of corruption in Nigeria.
The case involves the purchase of an offshore oil block in Nigeria for $1.3bn (£1bn) in 2011.
The companies deny wrongdoing, saying they acquired the rights in accordance with Nigerian law.
The trial in Italy is expected to start in March next year. It follows a lengthy investigation by Italian prosecutors.
Anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness says it could be one of the biggest corporate corruption trials in history.
The companies are also facing charges in Nigeria over the case, which concerns Nigeria’s OPL-245 – an offshore oilfield estimated to hold 9bn barrels of crude oil – secured by Shell and Eni in 2011.
The allegation is that a large part of the $1.3bn payment went not to the Nigerian state but to Nigerian politicians as a bribe.
Emails sent between Shell management, which were released by Global Witness in April, suggest Shell was aware the money would end up in the pockets of Nigerian politicians.
As well as the two corporations, key individuals in the companies are facing charges including Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi and former Shell executive Malcolm Brinded.
The prosecution claim that the oil companies used a Nigerian middleman, a former oil minister Dan Etete, to pay the bribe.
Mr Etete will also go on trial.
In a press release issued on behalf of its board of directors, Eni said it was confident that neither the company nor its CEO were involved in the alleged illegal conduct.
A Shell statement said it was confident that nothing illegal had occurred, adding: “We believe the trial judges will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees.”