Shell faces prosecution in Holland over Nigeria’s OPL 245 deal

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell seems to be in trouble with the law in Holland after Dutch prosecutors said they have uncovered ‘prosecutable offenses’ in their investigation of the company’s acquisition of Nigerian offshore oilfield OPL 245 in 2011.

Italy’s Eni and Shell bought the OPL (Oil Prospecting License) 245 offshore field for about $1.3 billion from Malabu Oil and Gas Limited owned by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Dan Etete, in a deal that spawned one of the oil industry’s largest corruption scandals.

Of that amount, almost $1.1 billion is believed to represent bribes paid to a London bank account that ended up going to various Nigerian politicians, including Etete.

“Based on the investigations still underway, the prosecutor has determined that actions which can be prosecuted criminally took place,” said Valentine Hoen, a spokeswoman for the Dutch public prosecutor’s office.

Shell itself confirmed that it had “been informed by the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office that they are nearing the conclusion of their investigation and are preparing to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell Plc for criminal charges directly or indirectly related to the 2011 settlement of disputes over Oil Prospecting License 245 (OPL 245) in Nigeria.”

Shell is already facing trial in Italy along with Eni over the matter.

Italian magistrates suspect the two oil groups used bribes to obtain rights to OPL245, estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude, for $1.3 billion.

Last December,an Italian judge, Giusy Barbara, found that Eni and Royal Dutch Shell were fully aware that their purchase of the OPL would result in corrupt payments to Nigerian politicians and officials.

The Milan judge made the comment in her written reasons for the September conviction of a Nigerian, Emeka Obi and Italian Gianluca Di Nardo, both middlemen in the OPL 245 deal, for corruption. They were jailed for four years.

“The management of oil companies Eni and Shell … were fully aware of the fact that part of the $1.092 billion paid would have been used to compensate Nigerian public officials who had a role in this matter and who were circling their prey like hungry sharks,” Barbara said in her reasoning.

“It was not mere connivance, but a conscious adhesion to a predatory project damaging the Nigerian state,” she added.

She also said money was given to some Eni managers. (NAN)