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OPL 245: Shell’s flawed anti-corruption system

Translation of an article published overnight by the Dutch media organisation

High prison sentences demanded against former Shell employees

Lawsuit In a criminal case for alleged corruption by Shell and Eni when purchasing a Nigerian oil field, the Public Prosecution Service demands high penalties.

Merijn Rengers and Carola Houtekamer: July 21, 2020 at 22:22

The Italian Public Prosecution Service demanded unprecedented high prison sentences in Milan on Tuesday against four former Shell directors and employees for large-scale corruption. The prosecution charges it to a former member of the board of directors, a director and two advisers who participated in bribery in Nigeria. The amount of the kickback, more than $ 1 billion, makes this one of the largest corruption affairs a Dutch company has ever been involved in.

The Italian criminal case revolves around the acquisition of the rights to a gigantic oil field off the Nigerian coast, “OPL 245”. The money that Shell and Italian oil company Eni paid for this in 2011 – $ 1.3 billion – largely went to Nigerian politicians and businessmen, including then-President Goodluck Jonathan.

In the criminal case, besides the Shell people, a number of managers and the current chairman of Eni, various intermediaries and the owner of the oil field, the Nigerian former minister of oil, are suspected. Shell is concerned with the two “former spies” John Copleston and Guy Colegate. They came from the British secret service MI6 and were hired by Shell to deal, in the prosecution’s words, with “the dark side” of the transaction.

Like former Africa director Peter Robinson, they heard the Public Prosecution Service demand six years and eight months in prison. The prosecutor demands seven years and four months in prison against former board member Malcolm Brinded, at the time the boss of the division for oil and gas extraction.

The prosecutor also demands a fine of 900,000 euros from both oil companies and wants to recover the bribe amount, approximately 1 billion dollars, from Shell, Eni and suspects.

In his final indictment, which prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale read out in a nearly ten-hour session on Tuesday, he denounced Shell’s flawed anti-corruption system. After all, that would have missed or ignored all ‘red flags’ in internal emails and briefings.

He also criticized Shell’s decision to have internal investigations of the case covered by the professional secrecy of Shell’s lawyers. In the Netherlands, a criminal case is also underway for the bribery, but it has been pending for a long time because of claims on the right of non-disclosure.

The Shell spokesman says to stick with “the standard response”: Shell “does not believe there is any ground to convict Shell or any of the former employees in Milan.”


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