Nigeria: Malabu Scandal - Italian Court Acquits Shell, Eni Managers

(file photo).

The verdict would impact on Nigeria's hope of securing court-ordered compensation from Eni and Shell.

An Italian court has declared Shell, Eni and their managers acquitted in the Malabu scandal.

They were all acquitted by the court on Wednesday.

Wednesday's verdict ends a trial that has seen officials of the oil giants battle to prove their innocence.

Several former executives of the companies were also cleared of wrongdoing, including Malcolm Brinded and Paolo Scaroni.

Prosecutors had charged that executives involved in the Malabu deal knew that much of the $1.1 billion they deposited into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government would be disbursed as bribes.

The oil companies and its officials have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

However, in 2018, two middlemen named in the Malabu deals were found guilty of corruption in a separate trial.

Back Story

The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by a former Nigerian petroleum minister, Dan Etete.

From accounts controlled by Mr Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu Abubakar, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil.

Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well of officials of Shell and ENI.

The transaction was authorised in 2011 by Mr Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria's richest oil blocks.

The oil resources of the OPL 245 license have remained undeveloped since the controversies began. Eni initiated international arbitration proceedings against Nigeria in September, alleging the government has breached its obligations by refusing to let the firm develop the license, which will expire in May.

Nigeria

The verdict would impact on Nigeria's hope of securing court-ordered compensation from Eni and Shell.

A representative of the Nigerian government told Bloomberg Wednesday that the nation will wait to review the Italian court's written judgment before considering its position.

Shell CEO, Van Beurden, reacting to the verdict, said that the oil giant has always maintained that the 2011 settlement was "legal, designed to resolve a decade-long legal dispute and unlock development of the OPL 245 block. At the same time, this has been a difficult learning experience for us."

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