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Italian energy giant Eni has won another victory in allegations of oilfield deal corruption in Nigeria, with the Nigerian Justice Ministry moving on Thursday to withdraw $1.1 billion in civil claims against the company, as reported by Bloomberg.
A spokesperson for Eni later confirmed the official withdrawal of claims to Bloomberg.
The claims were withdrawn “unconditionally” and will take effect immediately.
Withdrawal of the claims follows a 2021 court ruling in Italy, which acquitted Eni of wrongdoing in relation to corruption allegations concerning Eni and Shell’s acquisition of the OPL 245 oilfield license.
The withdrawal of claims technically paves the way for Eni and Shell to develop the field, which, according to the Italian energy giant, contains 560 million barrels of recoverable reserves.
In 2013, the British police probed the allegation that the $1.3-billion oil license deal had contained elements of corruption and money laundering, concerning payments allegedly made to a company linked with Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum Dan Etete, who was convicted of money laundering in France in 2007. A UK judge dismissed the case.
In 2021, a court in Milan also found Eni and Shell not guilty.
OPL 245 is a deep-water offshore oil play approximately 150 km off the Niger Delta.Two major oil and gas discoveries were made here (Etan and Zabazaba) in 2005 and 2006. Wood Mackenzie estimates the block contains some 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent, discovered and prospective resources. The subsea oil wells would be tied to an FPSO vessel, while the gas would be transported via a new pipeline, according to WoodMac, either to an offshore system or to Bonny Island for export as liquefied natural gas (LNG).
On Thursday, Eni told Bloomberg it would now work with the Nigerian government to consider the way forward for converting the oil license to allow for development of the block.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com