$1.3bn Nigeria oil field purchase: Italian prosecutors demand jail term for Shell, Eni executives

Italian prosecutors have asked that two oil companies, Eni and Shell, be fined while some of their executives, both present and former including Eni’s Chief Executive Officer, Claudio Descalzi, be sentenced to prison in a long-running trial bordering on alleged corruption in oil field purchase in Nigeria.

The oil scandal which has been described as one of biggest scandal in the oil industry and the trial bordered on allegations by Italian prosecutors that the two companies (Eni and Shell) acquired a Nigerian oilfield in 2011 for $1.3 billion with the knowledge that most of the purchase price would go to politicians and middlemen as bribes.

Prosecutors on Tuesday told a court sitting in Milan court, to jail Descalzi for eight years and Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s former head of upstream, for seven years and four months.

Also, they asked that Eni and Shell to be fined 900,000 Euros each and further asked that the court confiscate a total of $1.092 billion from all the defendants in the case, a sum that is the equivalent of the bribes alleged to have been paid.

All the defendants denied any wrongdoing on the argument that the purchase price was paid into an official Nigerian government account with all subsequent transfers being beyond their control.

Eni said the prosecutors’ request was unfounded and it would show the company and managers had acted completely correctly and had in a statement claimed that “Eni is confident that the truth will ultimately be established” when the defence presents its arguments in September.

Shell also in a statement said it did not believe there was a basis to convict the company or any of its former employees, adding that, “There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”

Shell has further explained that the 2011 agreement was a settlement of long-standing litigation, following the previous allocation of the block by the Nigerian government to Shell and Malabu, a company owned by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete.

There are 11 other defendants in the matter including former Eni Chief Executive, Paolo Scaroni, for whom prosecutors also sought an eight-year sentence.

No date has been given for final ruling in the matter but further hearing has been fixed for September.



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