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Shell Nigerian corruption, lunch and lots of iced champagne

A few minutes ago I published an article that mentioned Shell’s long-standing connection with Hakluyt & Company, the private spy firm populated by former senior MI6 officers. 

Titled Shell directors were directors, major shareholders and for a time, the ultimate spymasters in the company. Shell was and remains a client.

I have had direct dealings with Hakluyt in connection with Shell that I can only describe as bizarre. One thing was plain. They were very concerned. A titled lawyer, Sir Anthony Hammond QC drafted the response we received. Interesting then to see an article just published by the London Evening Standard. 

MARK HOLLINGSWORTH, JIM ARMITAGE: 28 Feb 2017

The role of two former MI6 officers employed by Shell in an allegedly corrupt oil deal is being investigated by Italian prosecutors, it emerged on Tuesday.

The deal concerns the sale of an oil block in Nigeria to Shell and Eni, the Italian state company, for $1.3 billion (£1 billion) in 2011.

Italian prosecutors allege Eni and Shell knew money paid to the Nigerian government for the exploration rights would be funnelled to other Nigerian individuals as bribes. The two companies have been charged in Italy along with 10 other individuals including Eni’s chief executive Claudio Descalzi, who today vehemently denied wrongdoing. Shell and ENI also deny wrongdoing. 

It has emerged that two purported ex-MI6 men — John Copleston and Guy Colegate — are allegedly involved. 

The alleged scam saw the Nigerian government transfer $1.1 billion of the proceeds for the oil bloc from a JPMorgan account in London to bank accounts controlled by a mysterious company called Malabu. It was subsequently claimed that Malabu’s beneficial owner was Dan Etete — the former oil minister who awarded the oil bloc in the first place. Etete denies the allegations against him.

Copleston and Colegate worked for Shell as strategic investment adviser and senior business adviser respectively. According to the prosecutor, they were both ex-MI6 and were allegedly negotiating with the Nigerians over the deal. The prosecutor alleges they breached compliance rules. Neither could be reached for comment and Shell declined to comment.

Colegate was named in a Wikileaks cable as a member of Shell’s kidnapping crisis team in Nigeria, and the British diplomatic list for 2006 names Copleston as a “counsellor (political)” for the Department for International Development in Lagos. Alleged MI6 identities widely leaked online say a John Copleston was working for the secret service in Lagos in 1993.

Anti-corruption organisation Global Witness has previously published a High Court document in which an email — reputedly from Copleston — discusses relations with the Nigerian leadership. One section states: “Meanwhile we are getting on very well personally — lunch and lots of iced champagne.”

Shell strongly denies it knew the money it paid for the oil concession would be channelled to Etete.

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