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Shell To Be Prosecuted With Criminal Charges For ‘Corrupt’ Nigerian Oil Deal

Shell will be prosecuted for criminal charges relating to a $1.3 billion settlement for an oil exploration licence in Nigeria, the company said on Friday.

The Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (DPP) informed Shell it is nearing the conclusion of an investigation into the case and is preparing to prosecute the oil giant, the company said in a statement on its website.

Shell and Italian oil firm Eni were accused of bribery in 2017 over a $1.3 billion payment that secured an exploration licence for an oil block, known as OPL 245, in 2011. It was alleged that although the funds were paid to the Nigerian government, the money actually went to Malabu Oil and Gas — a company linked to former oil minister Dan Etete.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and four ex-Shell managers are also facing charges of international corruption in Italy, where prosecutors allege they were aware that payments would be pocketed by individuals rather than the Nigerian government.

Shell and Eni have both denied any wrongdoing.

In an emailed statement, the DPP told CNBC Friday: “On the basis of the ongoing criminal investigation, the Public Prosecution Service concluded that there are prosecutable offenses. We are not yet able to make any announcements about the further course of the case.”

In November, a report from campaign group Global Witness said that Nigeria would lose $6 billion in oil revenue because of the terms of the allegedly corrupt deal.

Shell declined to comment when contacted by CNBC about the DPP’s decision to prosecute.

Responding to the prosecution announcement, an Eni spokesperson told CNBC via email that the company had no involvement in the proceedings brought by Dutch prosecutors.

“Eni confirms, once again and as based on the current outcomes in the ongoing trial in Milan, the correctness and compliance of every aspect of the transaction in respect of OPL 245 concluded in 2011, both with applicable laws and global industry practice,” the spokesperson said. “Eni continues to reject any allegation of impropriety or irregularity in connection with its conduct.”

A spokesperson the Federal Government of Nigeria was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.