Summary: Italy’s largest company investigated for its alleged role in corrupt Nigerian oil deal

4th July 2014: Financial police have raided the headquarters of Italy’s largest company, the oil giant Eni, as part of a new investigation into its alleged role in the corrupt OPL 245 oil deal. The OPL 245 deal has been investigated for several years by former SRT grantee Global Witness, current grantees Corner House and Re:Common, and the Nigerian anti-corruption campaigner Dotun Oloko.

In 2011, subsidiaries of Eni and Royal Dutch Shell agreed to pay US$1.1billion for the Nigerian oil block OPL 245. Eni and Shell paid the Nigerian government, which then paid the same amount to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by former oil minister Chief Dan Etete. Etete had awarded the oil block to his own company when he was oil minister under corrupt Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.

The details of the deal were undisclosed until middlemen acting for Malabu sued for unpaid fees. Evidence in the court cases between the middlemen and Malabu revealed the exact payments and arrangements between the parties and showed that the Nigerian government had effectively acted as a “straw man”. The High Court in London ruled in July 2013 that Etete was the real owner of Malabu.

Shell and ENI have denied paying money to Malabu, stating that their payments went to the Nigerian government. However court evidence has revealed that they knew that the money was going to Malabu and that Shell had negotiated directly with Etete over “iced champagne”. Eni officials allegedly attended a meal with Etete at a five-star restaurant in Milan.

Simon Taylor, Director of Global Witness, said, “The Italian authorities’ decision to investigate Eni’s role in the corrupt OPL 245 oil deal is excellent news for the people of Nigeria. They deserve to know how $1.1bn was diverted away from the public purse.”

Full story from Global Witness’s website:

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