The chief prosecutor at the ongoing trial of criminal suspects associated with the controversial Malabu oil deal, Francesco Greco, opened up a can of warms this week when he blasted corporate organisations including those in Nigeria of investing in corruption to cripple local economy fueling poverty and chaos.
Mr Greco said, "In Milan we are full of proceedings for international corruption and we see the negative effects, both against the victim states and against our companies that instead of investing in innovation, invest in bribes."
Many see the prosecutor's statement as an open indictment of the oil companies involved in the Malabu oil deal.
Mr Greco who spoke in Milan at the presentation of the 2018 social responsibility balance sheet of the judicial offices of the Lombard capital said corrupt corporate organisations now invest heavily in corruption in order to cover up their ugly tracks.
Mr Greco is leading the prosecution of Shell and Eni, the two oil giants said to have played leading roles in the fleecing of Nigeria billions of dollars in the Mabalu OPL 245 deal.
He said, "Companies invest more in bribes than innovation" exposing what he called the 'occult contract' that binds corrupt representatives of governments and managers of international companies. The radical statement of the prosecutor has been received by several anti-corruption groups across the world.
Mr Greco said further that "at an international level, colonialism has been gradually replaced by the corruption that has supported corrupt and dictatorial regimes, plundering the resources of countries for a few pennies at the expense of the democratic, economic and social development of entire populations maintained at the level of poverty and forced to emigrate by hunger".
Reacting to Mt Greco's statement, the Chairman, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA) Resource Centre), Olanrewaju Suraju, the Nigerian anti-corruption group pushing the prosecution of the suspects in the grand crime, said the position of the prosecutor exposes the "ignoble chain of corruption and the global conspiracy of local and international officials whose shameful conducts continues to keep Nigerians at the backbench of economic and industrial transformation."
He said the prosecutor has once again proven that criminals will no longer have safe havens to warehouse their looted funds.
Foreign anti-corruption experts currently in Nigeria, Antonio Tricarico and Nick Hildyard, also praised the prosecutor for saying it as it is. The two are currently in Nigeria training selected Community Based Organisations (CBOs), journalists and representatives of anti-corruption agencies on strategies for tracing illicit funds and assets.
The prosecutor had said, "In other words, this system is not limited to damaging their business or reputation, but constitutes a consolidated mechanism that directly or indirectly affects the population of the countries involved, plundering the resources necessary for socio-economic development and consequently worsening their living conditions". According to him, the "vicious circle, which the activity of the Public Prosecutor's Office is committed, within its own sphere of competence, to fight is referred to by the so-called 'curse of resources'".
OPL 245 was first allotted in 1998 to Malabu, a company co-owned by Mohammed Abacha, son of then dictator Sani Abacha; the wife of a former ambassador, Hassan Hindu; and Dan Etete, then Nigeria's petroleum minister.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo initially revoked the OPL 245 license and reassigned it to Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company which was later reclaimed by Etete's Malabu Oil and Gas, in 2006 partly through the court.
Shell rejected the decision, but the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan ensured Shell and Eni bought the OPL 245 in the paltry sum of $1.1billion, ultimately diverted into private pockets.
The EFCC investigation found many Nigerian officials culpable in the corruption and double-dealing in the agreements reached on OPL 245 between Malabu, controlled by Dan Etete, and the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2010.
EFCC investigations indicated that over $1.2 billion was laundered in a series of criminal plots involving corruption and bribery all of which are linked to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, Shell Nigeria Ultra deep (SNUD) Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE) and other Nigerian officials.
The investigation and prosecution was launched in Italy where Shell, ENI and some Nigerian officials and their foreign collaborators are facing criminal charges.