The court has slated April 3 and 4 for presentations from Nigeria’s technical experts as well as experts from the prosecution in the ongoing trial of two oil giants; Shell and Eni in Milan.
Shell and Eni have been accused of participating in shady deals that led to their acquisition of Oil Prospecting Lease(OPL) 245 in Nigeria from a company called Malabu, owned by former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete.
According to journalist, Barnaby Pace, who works for international body, Global Witness, “the companies, senior executives and a former minister are charged with international corruption offences for allegedly paying $1.1bn into a bribery scheme in Nigeria, they deny the charges.
Pace, who monitors proceedings from the Milan Palace of Justice on Wednesday, said the middleman Emeka Obi, already convicted in a related trial, was slated to give evidence but declined to answer questions.
“That’s it for the hearing this week. No evidence from witnesses today in the end. The legality of the deal under Nigerian law has been a point of contention in public and in the separate middlemen’s trial so the experts should be interesting,” said Pace
One of the issues debated in court on Wednesday was about Shell’s emails seized by Dutch authorities.
“Now there’s a fairly arcane discussion of Shell’s emails seized by the Dutch authorities in 2016, questions whether the procedure was correct but the company appears to have handed over the same documents anyway. Defendants want more time to read and digest them,” Barnaby Pace said.
In 2011, Shell and the Italian oil company Eni paid $1.1 billion in a murky deal for an oil block located off the coast of Nigeria: OPL 245. According to international body, Global Witness, it was able to track documents showing that this money didn’t go to benefit the Nigerian people.
“Instead it went to convicted money launderer and former oil Minister, Dan Etete, who had awarded himself ownership of the block in 1998 via a company he secretly owned, Malabu Oil and Gas, ” Global Witness says in a report.
After six years of denying any wrongdoing, Global Witness’ investigation forced Shell to admit it knew the money would be diverted into private hands, and went ahead with the deal anyway.
The landmark trial, which began hearing evidence in Milan in September 2018, involves current and former senior staff from two of the world’s largest corporations. They include Eni’s current CEO Claudio Descalzi, and former Royal Dutch Shell Executive Director for Upstream, Malcolm Brinded CBE.