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Bribery allegations hit Statoil Ireland development project

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Statoil’s scandal-dogged Corrib project in Ireland is already considerably delayed and three times more expensive than planned. Operator Shell is now accused of amongst other things bribing Irish police with large amounts of alcohol.

By Erlend Skarsaune: 13 August 2013

The Corrib field off the northwest coast of Ireland should have delivered gas ten years ago. But strong opposition from locals has meant that the field is still not producing, and made it NOK 17 billion (almost EUR 2.18 billion) more expensive than planned. The Corrib field’s overrun is 283 per cent when compared with its original budget, probably Statoil’s largest ever.

Shell is the operator, but residents believe the project also definitely falls under Statoil’s responsibility, what with its 36.5 per cent share. Local protesters are of the opinion that police have sided with the oil companies. Farmer Willie Corduff thinks injustices the Corrib project has caused the local community will never be healed.

“We’ve been beaten and imprisoned. Statoil’s role in this is a disgrace. They never said what has happened has been a mistake,” Mr Corduff told Aftenbladet in the spring.

His wife, Mary, pointed out that the gas development has been a gift for some people, and that oil companies have given stipends to local youths, for example.

“But it’s not like that for us. We were happy. Then the oil companies came. And they blame us for the fact that things have taken so long. But it’s them who have planned too poorly,” said Mary Corduff.

Now the project is hit by assertions of bribery. Small oil company OSSL claims that they were commissioned by Shell to grease certain palms of the community in Mayo. One assignment has allegedly been to ensure that police were provided with copious amounts of transported alcohol following one of the major confrontations with protesters against the Corrib development – at Pollathomais in 2007.

Lorries with alcohol

OSSL worked for Shell since the company took over as operator of the Corrib project in 2002. Neil Rooney and Desmond Kane told The Observer that their job was to get what the oil company required, no matter what time of day it was.

“If they needed 100 fireproof gloves at 11pm, it was our job to get them,” they said.

But then they were reportedly asked to provide several things. Rooney points out that they also had to provide a tennis court, cookers, television sets, agricultural equipment, school fees, and other home improvements for local residents. OSSL paid workers to do one thing, and then billed Shell for something else, says Rooney.

OSSL claims that they had driven a lorry with alcohol worth EUR 35,000 (NOK 274,000) to the Garda station in Belmullet in Mayo at Christmas 2007, where a number of policemen were quartered in connection with protests against the Corrib development.

Not paid

But OSSL was now not paid. In a February 2011 letter to a police superintendent at the Garda station in Belmullet, who it is alleged helped unload the consignment of alcohol at Christmas 2007, the OSSL said that they got the contract from Shell, but had not been reimbursed for their outlay.

Shell told The Observer in writing that the matter has been investigated, but that “the investigation team did not find any evidence to support OSSL’s allegations.” The Irish police also provide a written response, pointing out that inquiries have shown “no evidence of alcohol being distributed to policemen by, or on behalf of Shell Ireland”. The article states that both the police and the police officer that OSSL alleges helped unload the alcohol at the police station have been asked if they can deny the delivery, something that did not happen.

Following Shell’s announcement that they will be looking into the matter again, Irish police declared they would be doing the same.

Statoil leaves it to Corrib operator Shell to comment.

SOURCE

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