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An Italian prosecutor told a local court on Wednesday the court was made aware that managers at Italy’s oil major Eni tried to tamper with a witness in an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption in an oil block award in Nigeria.
“We have become aware that Eni, through its managers, would have tried to influence and would have approached the defendant (Vincenzo) Armanna to convince him to withdraw some of his statements,” Reuters quoted prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale as telling the court today.
Eni, as well as Shell, are on trial for knowing that an alleged payment of US$1.3 billion in bribes was made to the former Nigerian government back in 2011, for which Eni and Royal Dutch Shell secured exclusive rights to develop the oil block OPL-245 offshore Nigeria.
The 2011 acquisition of block OPL 245, according to Italian and Nigerian prosecutors, involved a transfer of money to personal accounts held by the Nigerian oil minister at the time. The official, Dan Etete, was later convicted of money laundering by a French court in a separate, unrelated case.
The sum of the OPL 245 deal was US$1.3 billion, an investigation revealed, of which US$1.1 billion was used to bribe politicians and businessmen to secure the deal. Shell and Eni have always insisted they were unaware of any wrongdoing at the time.
The case has been dragging for two years now in an Italian court after prosecutors asked in early 2017 Eni to stand trial over the alleged corruption.
Eni is also subject to a separate investigation for allegedly obstructing justice in the corruption case in Nigeria.
Lawyers for Eni, which denies these allegations too, asked on Wednesday the court in Milan to adjourn hearings until they examine evidence in the obstruction of justice investigation.
The court denied Eni’s request to adjourn, but directed defendant Armanna to be asked only about the alleged corruption, not about the alleged obstruction of justice, Reuters reports.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.