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Shell Executives charged in Italy over Malabu deal

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Shell Executives charged in Italy over Malabu deal

Shell Executives charged in Italy over Malabu deal
October 17
08:20 2017

Senior Royal Dutch Shell executives have been charged in Italy for their role in an alleged vast “bribery scheme” that deprived Nigeria of over a billion dollars from the sale of a prolific oil block – Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 245 – by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited to Shell and Italian oil giant, Eni, in 2011, the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed last Friday to Global Witness, a non-governmental organisation fighting corruption.

Officials facing trial include Malcolm Brinded, the second most powerful person in the company when the deal was struck. Others charged are Peter Robinson, former vice-president for Shell’s sub-Saharan Africa operations and Guy Colegate and John Copleston, former Shell employees and ex-MI6 agents as well as the company itself, also facing bribery charges alongside the individuals.

News of the charges broke Monday just as human rights lawyer and activists, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), dragged President Muhammadu Buhari before the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking the court to restrain him from continuing to hold the office of Minister of Petroleum Resources while in office as President of Nigeria.

Commenting on the charges against the Shell officials, Olanrewaju Suraju of Human and Environmental Development Agenda of Nigeria, said: “These charges are a clear signal that it is no longer business as usual for oil companies in Nigeria. It’s now time for the Dutch and British authorities to follow Italy’s lead and hold their biggest company to account.”

In 2011, Shell and Eni paid $1.1 billion for OPL 245, an oil block located in deep waters offshore Nigeria, allegedly knowing that the money would go to Malabu Oil and Gas owned by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete, who had been convicted for money laundering in France.

Etete was accused of awarding himself the block while in office under former military head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha.
The historic decision follows a dramatic U-turn in which it admitted that it knew its billion dollar payment would go to Etete, in exchange for OPL 245.

“This could be the biggest corporate bribery trial in history, and a watershed moment for the oil industry. The top brass of the UK’s largest company is in the dock after it finally admitted dealing with a convicted money launderer.

“There can be no clearer sign that wholesale change is needed. Shell must first apologise to the Nigerian people, then take clear steps to reassure investors and the broader public that this won’t happen again,” said Barnaby Pace of Global Witness.

In April, Global Witness and Finance Uncovered revealed that Shell executives knew that the $1.1 billion they paid for OPL 245 would go to Etete and was likely to be used in a vast bribery scheme.
For years, Shell had claimed that it only paid the Nigerian Government. But after the Global Witness investigations, Shell shifted its position and acknowledged it had dealt with Etete through his front company, Malabu.

In December, the Milan Public Prosecutor alleged that $520 million from the deal was converted into cash and intended to be paid to former President Goodluck Jonathan, members of the government and other Nigerian government officials.
Now, Italian authorities have brought bribery charges against Malcolm Brinded, then Head of Upstream, alongside three others.

According to the Shell Foundation, Brinded has stepped down from his role as Chairman of the Board of Trustees due to the legal action in Italy.
Brinded remains a trustee of the foundation as well as retained positions as Chair of Engineering UK and President of the Energy Institute.

In September 2017, BHP Billiton announced that Malcolm Brinded would not return to the BHP Billiton board due to judicial inquiries over the OPL 245 deal.
In 2002, Brinded was awarded the CBE for services to the U.K. oil and gas industry. These individual charges are in addition to existing charges brought against Shell, Eni, the Italian company’s CEO, former CEO and Chief Operations Officer, middlemen and several Nigerian officials.

“Shell’s current CEO, Ben van Beurden has described the emails we leaked as ‘pub talk’, but most pub chats don’t end up in criminal proceedings.
“Mr. van Beurden has had four years as CEO to address a scandal that now threatens to engulf his company but has done next to nothing. He should draw a line under the case by admitting the company’s guilt, removing Mr. Brinded from his position, and setting out his plan for overhauling the company’s anti-bribery efforts for the future,” said Pace.
“These charges are a clear signal that it is no longer business as usual for oil companies in Nigeria. It’s now time for the Dutch and British authorities to follow Italy’s lead and hold their biggest company to account,” added Suraju.

OPL 245 holds significant discovered hydrocarbon reserves and will increase Shell’s reserves by a third. Two oil and gas discoveries have been made on the block.
Etan and Zabazaba were discovered in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Eni plans to develop the Etan and Zabazaba fields in phases with subsea wells tied back to a leased floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel.

 

 

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