Nigeria: Malabu - Eni, Shell Knew of Corrupt Payments to Nigerian Officials, Italian Judge Affirms

17 December 2018

An Italian judge on Monday affirmed that oil giants, Eni and Royal Dutch Shell, knew that their 2011 purchase of the controversial Malabu oilfield would result in corrupt payments to Nigerian officials.

The judge, Giusy Barbara, also berated Nigerian politicians and officials involved in the controversial deal.

Reuters reported on Monday that the Milan judge made the comment in handing down her reasons for the September conviction of Nigerian Emeka Obi and Italian Gianluca Di Nardo, both middlemen in the OPL 245 deal, for corruption.

Messrs Obi and Di Nardo stood as middlemen in connecting the parties and the transfer of the funds through international bank accounts.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how they were found guilty and sentenced four years each.

The Malabu deal, struck in 2011 under former President Goodluck Jonathan, saw the Nigerian government act as a negotiator in the sale of OPL 245 oil block in offshore Nigerian waters.

Two international oil and gas giants, Royal Dutch Shell and Italian Agip-Eni, paid out about $1.1 billion to Dan Etete, a former Nigerian petroleum minister, who had previously been convicted of money laundering in France.

The payout would later become a subject of a cross-border investigation spanning over six countries.

On Monday, the Italian judge said both oil giants were aware of the corrupt influence of the controversial payments.

"The management of oil companies Eni and Shell ... were fully aware of the fact that part of the $1.092 billion paid would have been used to compensate Nigerian public officials who had a role in this matter and who were circling their prey like hungry sharks," the judge said in her reasoning.

Ms Barbara also said part of the money was given to some Eni managers.

Both oil giants were yet to react to the new development Monday afternoon.

Earlier in December, details emerged that Russia asked Italy to drop charges against a former ambassador caught up in the long-running Nigerian corruption case. Legal documents showed that authorities in Russia plan to ensure charges against Ednan Agaev, a former ambassador, were dropped.

In November, a report by Global Witness said the Malabu deal reduced Nigeria's expected revenue by nearly $6 billion.

The group, in its report titled 'Take the Future', said the projected lost revenue could fund Nigeria's combined annual federal health and education budgets twice over.

The report drew on an analysis from leading experts at Resources for Development Consulting commissioned by Global Witness and NGOs HEDA, RE: Common and The Corner House.

The analysis of the contract terms estimated these changes could reduce the Nigerian government's projected revenue from the oil fields by $5.86 billion over the lifetime of the project when compared to the terms that had applied before the 2011 deal and assuming an oil price of $70 per barrel.

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