SWITZERLAND, MAY 13, (TODAY’SECHO) – Former president Goodluck Jonathan has denied reports that he collected bribes from two international oil giants; Shell and Eni to sell off Oil Prospecting Lease(OPL) 245 in what is known as Malabu Scandal.
Jonathan was reacting to a fresh claim by the Nigerian government filed in a London court last month. In the court filing, the Nigerian government accused Jonathan and other officials who worked in his government of being recipients of up to $1.1 billion in bribe to facilitate the transfer of OPL 245 to Eni and Shell in 2011.
A statement by Ikechukwu Eze, media adviser to the former president, described the allegation as “recycled falsehood that is blatantly dishonest, cheap, and predictable.”
The Nigerian government is seeking about $3.5 billion in damages from oil giants Eni and Shell over the controversial Malabu oil deal.
OPL 245 and the trial of Eni and Shell
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.
The case brought by the Milan Public Prosecutor alleges that $520 million from the deal was converted into cash and intended to be paid to then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and other Nigerian government officials. The prosecutors further allege that money was also channelled to Eni and Shell executives, with $50 million in cash delivered to the home of Eni’s then head of African Operations Roberto Casula.
On October 17th 2018, Global Witness co-founder, Simon Taylor, gave evidence in the trial, having triggered the investigation which led to the trial by submitting a criminal complaint by Global Witness, Re:Common, and The Corner House in 2013.
Last Week, Today’s Echo reported that Dutch prosecutors were ramping up their case against Shell and the oil giant may face criminal prosecution in Netherlands. Eni has been facing trial for a while in Milan.
If found guilty, senior executives at both companies could go to jail. Shell and Eni could face enormous penalties, and be forced to hand back one of the most promising oil blocks in Africa.