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An Italian judge ordered on Wednesday oil majors Eni and Shell, as well as Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi and other former and present managers at Eni and Shell, to stand trial over alleged $1.3-billion corruption in an acquisition of an oil block in Nigeria back in 2011.
Giusy Barbara, a preliminary hearing judge at a Milan court, set the trial to begin on March 5, 2018, in Milan.
In February this year, Italian prosecutors asked for Eni, Shell, Descalzi, and ten others to stand trial over charges of alleged international corruption over alleged payment of US$1.3 billion in bribes to the former Nigerian government in 2011, for which Eni and Shell allegedly secured exclusive rights to develop the oil block OPL-245 offshore Nigeria.
Today, Eni and Shell were ordered to stand trial under the Italian legislation that mandates companies be liable for crimes committed by directors and executives when a suspected unlawful conduct has benefited the legal entity.
The people who will stand are a dozen and include—apart from Eni’s current CEO Descalzi—his predecessor Paolo Scaroni, former Shell managers Malcolm Brinded, Peter Robinson, Guy Colgate, and John Coplestone, three former Eni managers—Roberto Casula, Vincenzo Armanna, and Ciro Antonio Pagano, as well as some alleged intermediaries—Luigi Bisignani, Gianfranco Falcioni, and Ednan Agaev.
Both Shell and Eni have always denied any wrongdoing, and issued statements following the judge’s ruling today.
“We are disappointed by the outcome of the preliminary hearing and the decision to indict Shell and its former employees. We believe the trial judges will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees,” Shell said, adding that “There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”
Eni, for its part, said:
“Eni’s Board of Directors has reaffirmed its confidence that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction”.
“The Board of Directors also confirmed its full confidence that chief executive Claudio Descalzi was not involved in the alleged illegal conduct and, more broadly, in his role as head of the company. Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct,” the Italian company said.
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.