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OPL 245: Eni, Shell must face corruption charges in Nigeria, CSOs tell FG

OPL 245: Eni, Shell must face corruption charges in Nigeria, CSOs tell FG 

A coalition of civil society organisations has urged the federal government to press corruption charges against Eni, Shell, and other defendants involved in the OPL 245 deal.

This comes after an Italian court acquitted Shell, Eni and other defendants of corruption charges in the OPL 245 deal.

In a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, the CSOs said there would be no risk of double jeopardy due to the differences between legal systems in Italy and Nigeria.

This means the accused parties can still be tried for the same crime in Nigerian courts.

The letter was signed by Luca Manes for Re:Common; Nicholas Hildyard for The Corner House; Olanrewaju Suraju for Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre), and Simon Taylor, for Global Witness.

The coalition warned that the judgment of the international community, already alarmed by the Italian ruling, is likely to be harsh were Nigeria to drop the cases, given the strength of the evidence amassed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“We are aware of mischievous, self-serving calls in the press from allies of those being charged that the Nigerian prosecutions should be dropped on the basis that Milan has found no case to answer. These calls must be rejected, ” the groups said.

“Italy is not in charge of Nigeria’s justice system. The judges in Nigeria must be allowed to hear the cases and to judge them on the basis of Nigerian law. Indeed, the world is now watching the Nigerian prosecutions.

The coalition said it understands that the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office will likely appeal the March 17 verdict.

However, it also said Italian law does not permit judges to convict on the basis of circumstantial evidence, unlike in Nigeria and other common law jurisdictions.

“The need to put the Milan judgment into perspective is all the more urgent given allegations that the trial may have been polluted, ” the coalition said.

“The Milan prosecutor sought to admit a statement by Piero Amara, a former outside counsel for Eni, that Eni had conducted surveillance of the prosecutors, key witnesses, and the judges in order to discredit witnesses or gain an advantage in the trial”.

According to the CSOs, the full transcript of Amara’s statement was not made public as large parts were blacked out and the judges refused to admit the evidence.

It noted that an Italian newspaper has now reported on the blacked-out parts of the statement, which reportedly allege that Eni’s lawyer had “preferential” access to OPL 245 judges.

“The allegations were investigated by the Italian authorities but were dismissed after Eni denied them. If true, Amara’s allegations would constitute strong grounds for a retrial, ” the groups added.

“We, therefore, urge Nigeria, as the victim in the case, to demand that the full text of Amara’s evidence is made public so that the Nigerian public – and the wider international community – can be satisfied that there was nothing untoward in the conduct of the trial.”

The Cable had reported that Dan Etete, former minister of petroleum, said Nigerian courts must now strike out charges against him because of the ruling of the Italian court.

SOURCE

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