Executives of Royal Dutch Shell and Italian oil major Eni will stand trial in Milan on corruption charges tied to a widely investigated Nigerian oil rights deal dating back to 2011.
An Italian judge on Wednesday set a March 5 date for the case against Eni’s current CEO Claudio Descalzi, former CEO Paolo Scaroni, Chief Operations and Technology Officer Roberto Casula, and four Royal Dutch Shell staff members including former board director Malcolm Brinded.
The decision follows the review of e-mail trails and other evidence that suggests high-level executives with Royal Dutch Shell and Eni knew that their payouts were lining the pockets of Nigerian officials. Italy’s investigation was spurred by reports from London-based international NGO Global Witness, Nigeria’s Dotun Oloko and their anti-corruption partners.
Those Nigerian officials include former oil minister Dan Etete, previously convicted of money laundering in 2007, and Mohammed Adoke, the former attorney general and justice minister charged with money laundering in Nigeria earlier this year. Last year, the Milan public prosecutor alleged that some of the millions diverted from the deal was destined for former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The Nigerian people lost out on over $1 billion dollars, equivalent to the country’s entire health budget, as a result of this corrupt deal,” said Global Witness co-founder Simon Taylor. “They deserve to know the truth about what happened to their missing millions.”
Royal Dutch Shell said the corporation was disappointed in the decision. “We believe the trial judges will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees,” the company statement said. Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity, it added, and “there is no place for bribery or corruption.”
Eni issued a statement acknowledging the decision and asserting “confidence that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction” as well as their confidence in the judicial process.
Image: Royal Dutch Shell Nigeria