Multinational oil giant, Eni, and subsidiary, Royal Dutch Shell, have said the court judgment in Milan, Italy acquitted it from the $1.092billion failed Malabu oil deal, noting that it was bothered with a certain United Kingdom probe into the matter.
Eni said in a statement that there was “no case to debate” as the court judgment stands.
SaharaReporters had last week reported that the UK was asked to probe allegations made by Nigeria’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke that the Mutual Legal Assistance, made by UK to Italy which aided his recent judgment in Milan, was forged.
In a petition addressed to Rt Hon Dominic Raab, MP Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, one of the leading anti-corruption groups in the UK, The Corner House, had asked the UK to investigate Adoke’s allegations.
But in a statement, Eni insisted that a court judgment already acquitted it.
It said, “With regards to the press report “Oil Prospecting Licence: UK Faces Pressure to Probe Adoke’s Alleged Forged Legal Request”, please note that the Court in Milan on 17 March acquitted Eni, Shell and all the defendants as there is no case to debate.”
On Marhc 17, a court sitting in Milan, Italy, which has been hearing Nigeria’s application to award damages against Eni and Royal Dutch Shell to pay $1.092billion over the failed Malabu oil deal, acquitted the two companies.
This came barely a year after a court in the United Kingdom dismissed Nigeria’s claim for $1bn on the same case.
The court on Wednesday acquitted energy groups Eni and Shell along with a series of past and present managers including Eni Chief Executive Officer, Claudio Descalzi, in the oil industry’s biggest corruption scandal.
The sentence, read out in court by the Judge, Marco Tremolada, comes more than three years after the trial first began and after a total of 74 hearings.
At a hearing into alleged corruption linked to Eni and Shell’s 2011 acquisition of the OPL 245 field, Lucio Lucia, lawyer for the Nigerian government, called for a guilty verdict and an advance payment, ahead of any broader damages package set by a court at a later date.
Lucia did not specify how much Nigeria was seeking in damages overall but said the disputed deal had deprived Abuja of “profit oil”, adding “these are massive amounts”.
The lawyer said that calculated under two different scenarios, the profits that had been lost amounted to $4.5 billion and $5.9 billion respectively.
The long-running case revolves around the purchase of the OPL 245 offshore field, some 150 km off the Niger Delta, for about $1.3 billion from Malabu, a company owned by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete.
It involved the alleged payment of $1.1 billion by oil giants to the Nigerian government accounts in 2011 for OPL 245, said to hold reserves of about 9.23 billion barrels of oil.
The OPL 245 was alleged to have been bought by Etete under suspicious circumstances in 1998.
Etete was alleged to have bought it for a fraction of its actual value. However, the oil licence was revoked by the new President Olusegun Obasanjo administration and reallocated to Shell.
During the administration of Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, the then Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, brokered a deal for the sale of the same oil bloc, acting as a middleman between Shell and Eni on the one hand, and Etete’s company, Malabu, on the other hand.
However, Adoke was alleged to have transferred over $800 million to Etete who, in turn, transferred part of the money to government officials.
Adoke is currently facing trial on the same issue in Nigeria.