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OPL 245: “an axis of spies that runs through this story”

By John Donovan

In the recent article (below”) about the OPL 245 corruption scandal, published under the translated headline “Eni-Nigeria trial, Prosecutor requests 8 Years sentence for Descalzi,” reference is made to “an axis of spies that runs through this story.”

It mentions the involvement of Shell’s MI6 hires responsible for generating the incriminating emails found in the raid and search of Shell’s HQ that has done so much damage to Shell’s reputation.

The involvement of the Italian and Nigerian secret services in the OPL 245 case is confirmed in the related translated newspaper article: “Eni Nigeria, the super-witness denies himself.”

Hence the fitting description, an axis of spies.

Former Eni manager Vincenzo Armanna has multiple roles in the OPL 245 drama, as whistleblower, witness and defendant. He has been the subject of considerable comment and coverage, including from Eni in a multifaceted Internet propaganda presentation – The true story of OPL 245 published overnight on the website. Basically, Eni has rubbished his testimony.

1st Translated article

Eni-Nigeria trial, Prosecutor requests 8 Years sentence for Descalzi 

di Luigi Ferrarella: 21 July 2020

In the bunker room in front of the San Vittore prison, prosecutors De Pasquale and Sergio Spadaro also asked Descalzi’s predecessor at the top of Eni, Paolo Scaroni and 8 years to the former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete for 8 years.

The proof of Eni’s bribes in Nigeria in 2011? For the Public Prosecutor’s Office, much lies in the “Dutch mirror”, and a lot later also in the “attempt to eliminate the evidence against him which is an indication of righteousness”. That is, to get to Eni’s sentence (to 1 billion and 92 million dollars in confiscation, plus a 900,000 euro fine) and to his current CEO Claudio Descalzi (at 8 years) starting from the emails seized in 2016 from Shell in the Netherlands, and , where there is still a piece missing from the reconstruction of an international corruption in Nigeria, fill it with the accusations to Descalzi of the co-defendant manager Eni Vincenzo Armanna, considered credible in the light of the subsequent retractions read by the Prosecutor as an effect of the “attempt to pollute the process by Descalzi in 2016 and Eni as a whole in 2017 “: this is the strategy that yesterday enervated the entire second day of indictment by assistant prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale at the Eni-Nigeria trial on the billion and 92 million dollars paid in 2011 by Eni and Shell to the government of Nigeria, on an official account, to purchase the “Opl-245” oil concession (one of the richest in Africa), actually held by former oil minister Dan Etete who years earlier had attributed it behind the screen-figurehead of the Malabu company.


Requisition at the end of which, in the bunker room in front of the San Vittore prison, prosecutors De Pasquale and Sergio Spadaro also requested 8 years of sentence from Descalzi’s predecessor at the Eni summit, Paolo Scaroni, current president of Milan and vice president of Rothschild in Italy; 6 years and 8 months to lobbyist Luigi Bisignani, again in the limelight as a defendant after the 2 and a half years collected in the 90s for the Enimont deal in Mani Pulite, and the 19 months negotiated in 2011 in Naples for association and crime, aiding and abetting and secret revelation in the “P4” trial; 7 years and 4 months to the former number three of the Dutch multinational Shell, Malcolm Brinded (while the confiscation of 1 billion 92 million is also proposed for Shell); 10 years to former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete; 7 years and 4 months to the then head of Eni explorations, Roberto Casula; 6 years and 8 months to Ciro Pagano, former managing director of «Nae» (Eni group company), and to the former manager in the Sahara area, Vincenzo Armanna, half accused and half author of accusatory statements against Descalzi; 6 years to entrepreneur Gianfranco Falcioni, former honorary vice consul in Nigeria, and to Ednan Agaev, former Russian ambassador to Colombia, broker for Shell; 6 years and 8 months to Shell executives, Peter Robinson, Guy Colgate and John Coplestone.


The defensive line accredited by Eni, and that is never having used intermediaries, is something that contrasts with reality, and which – sinks the prosecutor – is also a bit intolerable because it is repeated countless times not only in the media but also in contexts institutional, and I refer to a hearing in the Industry Commission of the then Eni summit. To speak with Etete, the prosecutor reconstructs, “Eni and Shell had to choose the Nigerian Emeka Obi and the other Azerbaijani Agaev as intermediaries, that is, in both cases, two consultants to Etete”. But above all the investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, launched in summer 2014, believes it has reconstructed that Eni’s apparently linear form of payment directly to the Nigerian government (which then passed on the money to the owner company Malabu, which, bouncing off unlikely Swiss accounts and Lebanese, finally returned to Nigeria not to the people, but to the tangential portfolio of ministers and politicians for at least 523 million), but it was not a real way to make transparency in the turbulent Nigerian environment and in the long-standing civil litigation that took place in Nigeria around the controversial property of the concession, but only the careful formal cover (the “condom”, according to the original definition of Agaev) to replicate and actually implement the initial (and then abandoned) scheme of business. Scheme in which Shell and Eni were moving towards paying for Malabu (i.e. the minister Etete) through intermediaries such as Agaev and Obi, the latter suggested to Scaroni (and from these to the then general manager Eni Descalzi) from Bisignani, who ( in turn in business with the partner Gianluca Di Nardo) counted on an economic return from the deal.


A bit of the story curiously surfaced in Court in London in 2013 when Obi, accusing Etete of not having paid him the mediation agreed in the first phase of negotiation, in forensic society with Di Nardo sued the former Nigerian oil minister, won and obtained 140 million moved to Switzerland and pro-quota transferred precisely to Bisignani’s business partner, Di Nardo. But in 2014 the Milanese prosecutors arrived to request the blocking of this money, believed to be segments of the price-bribe upstream: and confiscated in September 2018 by the Milanese judgment of the first degree of the judge Giusi Barbara, who in the excerpt in abbreviated rite chosen by Obi and Di Nardo sentenced these two co-defendants to today’s defendants of international corruption to 4 years.


“I’m not a fan of wiretapping, because there is often jargon there, the sentences left in half or incomprehensible, and then the story that” yes I said it but in reality I was joking … “. On the other hand, the documents are not scratched », said De Pasquale, who enhances some documentary relationships between Shell and Eni: such as the summary that Brinded makes of what was given by Descalzi after the meeting (instead denied during the investigations by Descalzi and Eni) between Descalzi and Nigerian President Jonathan; and like the e-mails exchanged within Shell between the managers Robinson, Colgate and Coplestone, the latter two fished by Shell in the British foreign secret service MI6 “, of which they had been the head of center in Abuja (in Nigeria) and in Hong Kong, and which together with Agaev for the prosecutor they constitute “an axis of spies that runs through this story”. Shell’s emails – sums up the prosecutor – «we could call them” the Dutch mirror “of Eni, where Eni is mirrored in knowing that money goes into bribes. Eni never put it in writing; Shell instead (perhaps because in his history he had never been subjected to a search and therefore never thought he could be subjected to it) he did it ». And it is precisely the emails seized in the 2016 search at Shell’s headquarters in the Netherlands, and which at the time Shell’s top executives were worried about in some interceptions, to provide pm ammunition on the existence and awareness of a “pay off », That is, of« compensation (in the face of something dishonest ») among« the many sharks that went around the deal »(another expression used in the mail). For the prosecutor, from these emails one could even draw “the formula of bribes: Eni’s money, plus Shell’s money, equal to the bribe”. A truth that for the prosecutor perhaps was already even in an investigative report internal to Shell, but on which Shell has so far lowered “the smoke screen of the alleged legal professional secret” on its control standards.


“When Eni says it has always dealt only and directly with the government”, the prosecutor disputes, “of course with the government …, but the government is made up of natural persons, and in this matter the physical persons are these, they are the Justice ministers who phone Etete and say “give the money” to the intermediaries, without whom the operation would have been blocked and who would then have had to distribute the money “. The money of the official price paid to the government by Eni and Shell, monetized in cash at local money changers for over half a billion dollars, then sorted by Abubaker Aliyu, treasurer of the corrupt locals, would have gone (for the few parts traceable according to the prosecution) to Nigerian politicians such as the then President Jonathan Goodluck, the ministers of Justice Adoke Bello and Bajo Oyo, of the Diezani Alison Madueke Oil, and of the Defense Aliyu Gusau. Among the many anomalies that spoiled the troubled course of the deal, the prosecutor also points to the underestimation within Eni of the biography of the holder of the concession, the former minister Etete, at the time already sentenced in France for money laundering (first under penalty of imprisonment and then instead to the payment of 8 million sanction); the apparent superficiality with which Eni immediately spoke with the mediator Obi although he had not yet had any formal mandate to deal with Malabu-Etete for a long time; the awarding of the concession without tender, a procedure that had been abandoned in Nigeria since the 1980s dictatorship; and the fact that the deal has bypassed the “indigenous policy”, the practice for which a favored eye was provided for local companies, here bypassed by the “sole risk” loophole, that is, by the assignment exceptionally only to foreigners, as had not happened for many years.


In the final part, prosecutor De Pasquale addressed the expected issue of credibility or not of Armanna, the OPL-245 project leader who first made a “spontaneous declaration” to the prosecutors in 2014, then “talked” in the press (for interviews) with Descalzi, and in three interrogations accused him of knowing that the Nigerian affair should have involved bribes to local politicians; but then on May 27, 2016 in a memory he minimized or sweetened the role of Descalzi, except not to completely reverse in a comparison in July 2016 with Descalzi (with unusually soft and respectful tones between the two). Then he also pretended to send an e-mail by mistake to the Catania defender of one of the Sicilian declarants of the so-called “anti-Descalzi conspiracy” (the one that will be discovered activated by the external lawyer Eni Piero Amara at the local Syracuse prosecutor Giancarlo Longo, who for corruption patteggerá 5 anni): mail in which Armanna accredited pressure from the Milanese prosecutors in league with his defender Luca Santamaria to file Eni bribes to the Nigerians in exchange for a favorable judicial treatment, and e-mail individually ended up in the hands of Eni, whose lawyers by Carlo Federico Grosso and Nerio Diodá on 6 May 2017 they delivered it to the public prosecutor’s office in Milan, specifying that they did not know if it was authentic. Swinging events of which Armanna at the courtroom trial in July 2019 gave a new explanation, stating that three points of his sweetening memory in 2016 the role of Descalzi had been written and delivered to him directly by the number three Eni Claudio Granata on behalf of Descalzi; and that the apparent forwarding by mistake of his email would have been part of an agreement with Eni to undermine the credibility of his initial accusatory statements, in exchange for the promise to return to Eni after a dismissal on expense report issues. But does Armanna tell the truth? The prosecutor De Pasquale wonders, and recalls that last February “you judges did not consider listening to the witnesses” asked by the prosecution to corroborate the request for alleged evidence that arose and absolutely essential for the decision: “But in our opinion – says the prosecutor – already the literal tenor of Armanna’s memory, and of the email apparently forwarded by mistake, prove the truth of what Armanna says, so exuding falsehoods and cues “; and they show that “Descalzi in the case of memory, and Eni as a whole in the case of e-mails, have tried to pollute this process”.


Strenuous is the defense that the prosecutor works in the reliability of Armanna, according to De Pasquale, not affected by the video recorded without his knowledge by some entrepreneurs and now enhanced by the defense because (slightly earlier than his spontaneous presentation in the Prosecutor’s Office) for Eni he would show an intention to artificially bring up some Eni managers to open his own business in Nigeria: “A video recorded in an illegal manner and made to try to frame him”, says the prosecutor, for whom Armanna “then however, has not slandered anyone”. Nor would it be affected by the Aise 007, Castelletti, who denied what Armanna said to both of them. And the credibility of Armanna would not even be affected by the telenovela of “Victor”, the mythological Nigerian 007 that for Armanna could have confirmed the story of the 50 million in cash transported by plane in a trolley to Casula’s house: heads first identified in a policeman who revealed himself in reality the wrong person, then apparently made himself alive with a letter in which he seemed ready to confirm Armanna, and finally, however, came to the courtroom in Milan to testify instead of never having said or known the things attributed to him by Armanna. “When it comes to secret services, it is always difficult to grasp situations …”, the prosecutor hints, however, for safety he tries to move back the trench further back, that is (based on a 2019 Cassation ruling) on ​​the possibility for the judges to evaluate equally the statements of the direct witness (here Armanna who is also accused) even when he was denied by his reference witness (here “Victor”), “even more if the denial is strange”. If anything, the prosecutor suggests, it is Armanna himself who has dented himself when he gave an implausible version on the million dollars he cashed and which he tried to justify with an unlikely mix between hereditary issues and future business in the gold sector. Is it enough to say that, at least in terms of “logical response”, everyone (as Armanna claims) knew about the bribes to Nigerian politicians, “at least Descalzi and Casula”? The prosecutor seems to anticipate the question when, addressed to the Tribunal, he almost invokes: “Do not ask us for diabolical proof, we are not in a film where there is a smoking gun: we ask you to evaluate the evidence as intended by international conventions, therefore also the clues as a whole, therefore also the pieces of the smoking gun when he is lying around”. International corruption “is a very serious crime, it is a damage to democracy, it is an appropriation of peoples’ resources and therefore a damage to the economy, it is an emergency like global warming: but the disvalue is still little grasped, it is a theme on which there is a lot of “chatter and distinctive” ».


Attorney Lucio Lucia will take the floor on 9 September. He and his colleague Valentina Alberta represent the property and moral interests (harmed by the alleged corruption) of Nigeria, whose government has been a civil party against the accused. Then, afterwards it will be up to the defenders’ arguments. The verdict – which will also have to face the same legal profiles that have resulted so far in both the Court and the Appeal in the acquittal of Eni and the then CEO Scaroni in the trial on Saipem’s disputed bribes in Algeria, where 6 years and 4 months of sentence had been requested for Scaroni, and where Descalzi had only been a witness – it is possible to be issued by the Tremolada-Gallina-Carboni judges by the end of the year.


Eni makes it known that it “considers the prosecution requests made by the prosecutor without any foundation”, who in the indictment, “in the absence of any proof or concrete reference to the contents of the preliminary investigation”, would have “reiterated the same narrative of the investigation phase , based on suggestions and deductions, ignoring that both the witnesses and the documentation that emerged have denied the accusatory theses in two years of trial and over forty hearings ». Eni believes that “the defenses will demonstrate to the Court that Eni and its management operated absolutely correctly in the context of the Opl245 operation”, because “Eni and Shell paid a reasonable and reasonable purchase price for the license directly to the Nigerian government , as contractually provided for through clear, linear and transparent methods; Eni also did not know, nor was it required to know, the possible destination of the funds subsequently paid to Malabu by the Nigerian government, a payment which also took place after an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Authority of Great Britain (SOCA) “. For the energy giant, therefore, “there are no Eni bribes in Nigeria and there is no Eni scandal”, indeed “the measures of the US Department of Justice and the SEC have closed their investigations without taking any action against society. The multiple internal investigations entrusted to international third parties by the company’s supervisory bodies had long since highlighted the absence of illegal conduct “.

July 21, 2020 | 7:00 pm


2nd translated article

Eni Nigeria, the super-witness denies himself

One of the most pyrotechnic hearings ever seen in Milan, with a good dose of secret services, Nigerians and Italians. Thus the Eni-Nigeria process is moving towards its conclusion. Two witnesses pick the prosecution’s arguments: one, the Nigerian policeman Isaac Eke, denies himself; the other, the secret agent of the Aise Salvatore Castilletti, defeated Vincenzo Armanna, accused in the trial but also a great accuser of the Italian oil company.

At this point, the story of the megatangent (1 billion and 92 million dollars) that Eni would have paid in 2011 to obtain, together with Shell, the immense Nigerian oil field Opl 245, or is a large hoax staged by the ex-manager Eni Vincenzo Armanna, or it is a colossal story of corruption (including judicial). Meanwhile, the defendants’ defences rejoice (the companies Eni and Shell, the CEO Eni Claudio Descalzi, his predecessor Paolo Scaroni, the managers Roberto Casula and Ciro Pagano, the intermediaries Luigi Bisignani and Gianfranco Falcioni, the former oil minister of the Nigeria Dan Etete and others).

Isaac Eke – a senior retired police officer and a collaborator, as far as we know, with the secret services of Nigeria – appeared yesterday as a witness before the court chaired by Marco Tremolada. Armanna had told the prosecutors, Fabio De Pasquale and Sergio Spadaro, that a certain Victor Nawfor, security officer of the residence of the then Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, had told him that 50 million dollars of the supertangent had been delivered in 2011 to Casula, Eni manager in Nigeria.

In January 2019, Victor Nawfor had been heard as a witness, but had denied Armanna, saying that he didn’t even know him. It was the wrong Victor, Armanna had replied, who then indicated the real Victor in Isaac Eke, who on November 12, 2019 signed a letter, certified by a notary, in which he says he met Armanna “during a dinner in 2009” , to have been introduced to him as Victor Nawfor and to be “ready to testify in Milan”.

In the classroom, he denies himself. He denies knowing Armanna, which he admits to having met fleetingly only a few times in 2014 and 2015, at the Hilton Hotel and in a restaurant in Abuja (Armanna was in Nigeria from 2009 to 2014 and after that he never entered that Country). He denies having written the letter, signed only to please his friend Tymi Aya. When asked by the prosecutor, if he was contacted by someone in Nigeria before coming to testify in Italy, Eke replies that he met with General Mohammed Monguno, currently Nigerian national security adviser, or the “head of secret services”.

At this point, in Nigeria as in every Common Law country, immediate arrests would have been made for Eke for lying to the judge (or in the letter acquired by the Court, or in the courtroom testimony). In Italy, however, the witness leaves the courtroom and, if the prosecutors want to indict him for false testimony, the prosecution will reach him when he returns to his country. The judge does not accept the request for immediate confrontation in the courtroom between Eke and Armanna, as the Italian code provides for two witnesses who contradict each other.

The word goes to Castilletti, in 2011 representative of the Aise (the Italian secret service for abroad) in Abuja. Armanna had stated that Castilletti could confirm Victor’s version of the millions that turned for Italian managers in Nigeria. He is welcomed into the courtroom with all the precautions due to a senior Aise official: the courtroom is cleared at the moment of his entry and the witness answers the questions hidden by a screen.

Of course, he denies ever having dealt with oil contracts, he says he only knows Opl 245 “for reading the newspapers”; that he only carried out his institutional task, the security of the Italians in Nigeria; to have had contacts in the African country only with Casula, Eni’s representative in Nigeria, and to have met Armanna only a few times; not to remember a trip by Scaroni and Descalzi to Nigeria to participate in an election event of President Goodluck and not to have dealt with it (although there had been 15 deaths at a similar election event).

The hearing ended with the decision to bring documents from a rogatory letter to the US on money paid by Dan Etete to manager Shell into the process. In the next hearing, on February 5, the Court will decide on the prosecutor’s request to hear Piero Amara, a former external lawyer of Eni as a witness, become a great accuser of the company who – he says – pay witnesses to have them retract the accusations.

Il Fatto newspaper, January 30 2020

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