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Shell is being charged with corruption in Nigeria

Shell employees at a borehole in Nigeria in 2002 where the oil comes from the ground and flows via pipes to terminals. Photo: Hollandse Hoogte / Sven Torfinn

…the crimes that would have taken place under the responsibility of Shell were carried out by Malcom Brinded, Peter Robinson, Guy Colegate and John Coplestone between autumn 2009 and 2 May 2014.

Translated from an article published in Dutch language on 20 Dec 2017 by Het Financieele Dagblad

Shell is being charged with corruption in Nigeria an Italian judge decided this afternoon. The lawsuit starts in Milan on 5 March.

In addition to Shell, the Italian oil and gas company Eni and its current CEO, Claudio Descalzi, and a number of former Shell directors are also being put on trial. The verdict follows after months of preliminary investigation and a number of hearings in Milan.

According to the Italian prosecutors, the crimes that would have taken place under the responsibility of Shell were carried out by Malcom Brinded, Peter Robinson, Guy Colegate and John Coplestone between autumn 2009 and 2 May 2014. Brinded can be called the highest in rank of this foursome. He had been Shell executive director for upstream international and member of the board of directors since 2009 until 2012. He was also chairman of the charitable Shell Foundation until the beginning of 2017, but resigned earlier this year after being criticized by the Italian prosecutor.


In response, Shell says that it is ‘disappointed’ about the outcome of the preliminary hearing and the decision to sue Shell and its former employees. “We expect judges to come to the conclusion that there will be no case against Shell or its former employees,” the company said in an emailed response.

Global Witness, the non-governmental organization (NGO) that has made efforts to get Shell to court is pleased with the ruling. According to the organization, it is the first time that such a large company as Shell is faced with bribery practices.
“As a result of this corrupt deal, the Nigerian population has lost more than $ 1 billion, just as much as the country’s entire health budget.  ‘We welcome the efforts of the public prosecutor to bring this matter to justice. It will be the largest prosecution of company bribes in history and serves as a warning to others who see corruption as a road to quick financial gain, “said Simon Taylor, co-founder of Global Witness in an initial response.

Money laundering

The case is all about $ 1.3 billion that Shell paid in 2011 together with the Italian company ENI for the acquisition of the OPL245 oil concession in Nigeria. Shell would have known that this money ended up largely at Malabu, the company of former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete, who had previously been convicted of money laundering.

The oil deal has long been the subject of a major investigation by the Italian public prosecutor, which is working with the Fiod in the Netherlands.

OM in the Netherlands

Since February 2016, the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office has constituted a so-called ‘Joint Investigation Team’ with the Italian Public Prosecution Service for the acquisition of oil field OPL 245 and in February last year, at the request of the Italians, invaded Shell’s headquarters. “We have taken note of the decision in Italy,” says a spokesman for the Functional Prosecution Service.

The Anti Corruption Center of the Fiod is also conducting an independent investigation into the case under the direction of the Functional Public Prosecution Service. That research is still ongoing. Whether that will lead to an indictment in the Netherlands is not yet known.

‘Systematic corruption’

At Corner House, a development organization that, like Global Witness, stands up for social inequality, they hope so. “In this case, Italy has passed the law over the abuse of power by big companies. The world is now waiting to see if Great Britain and the Netherlands, where Shell is based, have the backbone to follow that example, “said Nick Hildyard of Corner House.


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