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Shell Lied to Dutch Court

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“The walls are beginning to close in on Shell. The image that the company would like to present of itself, in the role of the victim instead of the perpetrator, is crumbling more and more,”

The oil company Shell lied to a Dutch court about steps taken to minimize the risk of oil spills during a court case brought against the multinational oil and gas company by four Nigerian farmers and Friends of the Earth, lawyers acting for the claimants alleged today.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Netherlands and a group of four farmers from villages in the Niger Delta were aiming to claim compensation from Shell for damages caused when a major oil pipeline burst, causing devastation to local communities.

During the case, which went to court in 2012 in The Hague, Shell’s lawyer said that the oil company had taken precautionary steps to avoid oil spills in the Niger Delta, including the installation of a leak detection system, instead blaming the spills on criminal tampering in the area. Due in part to this evidence, say FoE Netherlands, the court ruled that Shell was responsible for one out of the four oil spills.

However, according to lawyers representing the farmers, documents revealed in the UK’s High Court this year have shown that there was in fact no leak detection system in place and the Dutch oil company had consistently ignored calls from its own staff to replace the pipeline, despite being told their lifespan was “non-existent or short”.

The new evidence available to the farmers may lead to much wider compensation for the communities affected by the spills.

Because of the way in which Dutch courts operate, the farmers who brought the case in 2008 and their legal teams were prohibited from seeing any of the documents submitted by Shell in relation to the claim they were making.

It wasn’t until a new lawsuit was filed against Shell in the UK by 15,000 Nigerians in relation to oil spills from the same pipeline in another nearby village, that documents submitted to the High Court by the oil company as part of its defence could be obtained.

Channa Samkalden, the lawyer for FoE Netherlands and the Nigerian farmers who requested Shell’s documents from the British court, said: “On the basis of these documents, I can conclude that the testimony on the leak detection system which Shell gave to the court in The Hague in our case is in fact not true.”


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