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Corruption charge looms for outgoing BHP director Malcolm Brinded

  • The Times

One of Royal Dutch Shell’s most senior former executives is due to learn within weeks whether he will face trial in Italy on corruption charges.

Investigating magistrates requested over the northern summer that Malcolm Brinded and three other former Shell employees be tried for alleged international corruption relating to Shell and Eni’s dollars 1.3 billion acquisition of a big oil exploration block offshore Nigeria.

They are understood also to be seeking trials of Shell itself, as well as Eni, the Italian oil major, and Claudio Descalzi, its chief executive.

Prosecutors allege that the companies and their executives knew that much of the cash in the 2011 purchase of the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 block was to be paid in bribes, rather than to the government.

Mr Brinded, 64, who is president of the Energy Institute, was Shell’s executive director in charge of its upstream international division at the time of the deal.

He has also been a member of BHP’s board for three years, but the mining giant announced in August he would soon be stepping down “given his involvement in ongoing legal proceedings in Italy relating to his prior employment with Shell”. BHP’s London AGM will be held this week.

Under Italian law, after investigating magistrates request a trial the case is passed to a judge for a preliminary hearing to decide whether to approve the request.

A hearing to decide about Mr Brinded and the three other former Shell executives was expected today. Judicial sources said it was likely that the judge would decide to unify the case with that of the Eni executives, who are also at the preliminary hearing stage. The last preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 31 and the judge should decide a few days later whether a trial will be held.

Judicial sources said the Shell executives could face sentences of between four and eight years if found guilty.

Mr Brinded had a 38-year career at Shell, retiring in 2012. He was Shell’s UK chairman from 1999 to 2002 and was awarded a CBE in the 2002 new year’s honours list.

The case in Nigeria has a complex history. The OPL 245 block, thought to be one of the most promising in Africa, has changed hands several times and became subject to litigation before the 2011 deal. Some of the proceeds of that deal are alleged to have ended up with Dan Etete, a former oil minister who previously had used his position to award the block to Malabu, a company he controlled.

Shell said that, based on its review of the Milan prosecutor’s file, it did “not believe that there is a basis to prosecute Shell”. A spokesman said: “Furthermore, we are not aware of any evidence to support a case against any former or current Shell employee.

“If the evidence ultimately proves that improper payments were made by Malabu or others to then current government officials in exchange for improper conduct relating to the 2011 settlement of the longstanding legal disputes, it is Shell’s position that none of those payments were made with its knowledge, authorisation or on its behalf.”

Eni has denied any wrongdoing and has said it stands by “the correctness of its conduct within the acquisition of the OPL 245 operating licence”.

Mr Brinded declined to comment. His lawyers had not returned a request for comment last night.

The Times


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One Comment

  1. Bill Campbell says:

    OPL245 was a tipping point

    It was good news for those who care for Shell and it’s reputation when Brinded and his guard dog Ruddock were shown the door in 2012. Brinded had contaminated the boardrooms of Shell UK and RDS for 15 years with his toxic behaviour. Corruption of external parties also in the shape of the North Sea safety reguluator using his special relationship with the then Secretary of State for Scotland. Still wary of the demise of reputation during the reserves debacle it seems the Chairman and his counsel with the support of the non executives called time on Brinded sensing Shell was heading yet again into the scandal zone. Perhaps he is being helped towards prosecution from within. Was it coincidental that when the morning raid took place both the CEO and CFO were absent, was it a coincidence that the Police were aware there was a cache of interesting stuff in the office of the non executive Chairman, held in a file cabinet that used to be Brinded’s. The most interesting aspect that hints at an insider is the transcript of the telephone conversation between BvB and Simon Henry.
    How on earth did this piece of super sensitive correspondence get from the highest levels of RDS into the public domain?

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