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In 2018, Italian prosecutors brought a criminal case over the alleged involvement of Shell, and the Italian oil multinational Eni, in a 1.3 billion US dollar bribery scheme linked to the license of OPL 245. This is the name of one of Nigeria’s most valuable offshore oil blocks.

Thirteen individuals, including some current and former senior managers of Shell and the Italian oil company Eni, are currently on trial in Italy relating to how the two companies acquired the block in 2011.80 The defendants include both companies, a former Royal Dutch Shell Executive Board Member and two former MI6 agents who worked for Shell.81

In February 2016, Shell’s headquarters in The Hague were raided by 50 police in a joint Dutch–Italian investigation into the deal. According to the Milan prosecutors, and based on previous investigations by Global Witness, the two oil companies paid 1.3 billion US dollars for OPL 245.82 The prosecutors allege that, instead of going to the Nigerian Government to benefit the Nigerian people, 1.1 billion US dollars of the payment went to a former oil minister and convicted money launderer, Dan Etete.83 Hundreds of thousands of dollars were then allegedly used for payment of the former Nigerian president Johnathan Goodluck and other Nigerian government and public officials. The prosecutors also allege that some of the money was returned to Shell and Eni managers.

If found guilty, the individual defendants could go to jail. The companies also face financial penalties. Hearings are ongoing in Italy and a verdict could come in early 2020.

The Nigerian state has also made corruption allegations as part of a civil case in London in early 2019, alleging that managers of Shell and Eni were implicated in the ‘bribery scheme’.84 Related criminal proceedings against the Nigerian subsidiaries of Shell and Eni, company managers and public officials for conspiracy to commit corruption are under way in Nigeria.85 Dutch public prosecutors are also in the process of pressing criminal charges over the same deal.86

Shell, Eni, and the individuals who have been charged, all reject the allegations.87


80. Milan Public Prosecutor V Scaroni, Descalzi, Casula, Armanna, Pagano, Falcioni, Bisignani, Di Nardo, Obi, Agaev, Etete, Eni and Royal Dutch Shell. See Ben Chapman, Shell and Eni face one of the biggest corruption cases in corporate history over $1.3bn Nigerian oil field, The Independent, 16 September 2018, the-biggest-corruption-cases-in-corporate-history-over-13bn-nigerian-oil-a8537506.html. See also: Global Witness, Shell and Eni on Trial, (hereafter Global Witness, Shell Knew).

81. The Magistrate for the Preliminary Investigation, Decision to open trial, 20 December 2017, uploads/2018/06/decision-to-open-trial-20.12.2017_English.pdf

82. Public Prosecution Office, Notification of completion of preliminary investigations, 22 December 2016, wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Milan-prosecutors-notice-of-closure-of-OPL-245-investigation_legal-translation_English.pdf. See also: Global Witness, Shell Knew.

83. The Magistrate for the Preliminary Investigation, Decision to open trial, 20 December 2017, uploads/2018/06/decision-to-open-trial-20.12.2017_English.pdf

84. Kelly Gilblom, Jonathan Browning, and Chiara Albanese, Shell, Eni Officials Named in $1 Billion Nigeria Lawsuit, Bloomberg, 7 May 2019,

85. Court documents are available on the Shell and Eni On Trial website, which is maintained by the anti-corruption organizations, Cornerhouse, Global Witness, Heda and Re:Common.,

86. Reuters, Dutch prosecutors say Shell Nigeria probe finds ‘prosecutable offences’, 1 March 2019, shell-nigeria-prosecutors/dutch-prosecutors-say-shell-nigeria-probe-finds-prosecutable-offences-idUSKCN1QI42Z.

87. Eni, NIGERIA – BLOCK OPL 245, ; Shell, Shell comments on decision to indict the company over OPL 245 settlement, 20 December 2017, comments-on-decision-to-indict-the-company-over-opl-245-settlement.html


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