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Royal Dutch Shell and Eni are in the clear as far as the US Department of Justice is concerned, after the DOJ on Wednesday notified the two separately that it was closing its investigation into the OPL 245 oilfield case—also known as the Malabu oil deal--in Nigeria that dates back to 2011.
“The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has notified us that it has closed its inquiry into Shell in relation to OPL 245. We understand that this is based on the facts available to the DoJ, including ongoing legal proceedings in Europe,” Shell said in a statement on Wednesday, as carried by Reuters.
The case that has spanned several countries involves not just Shell and Eni, but former Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathon and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The Nigerian government has sought to claim $1 billion in damages along with a revocation of the two oil majors’ licenses for the block.
Shell and Eni paid over $1 billion for rights to the block, which Nigeria has claimed was in the form of bribes. Shell and Eni both claim the money paid was a legitimate payment to obtain rights for the block.
Today’s closure of the case without finding wrongdoing closes one chapter in the OPL 245 saga at least on one continent.
OPL 245, located in the southern Niger Delta, likely contains 9 billion barrels of oil reserves—the largest untapped oil block in Africa. And because of the dispute, it will likely remain so, despite the DOJ’s decision to forgo investigating.
The case against Shell and Eni is still ongoing in Milan. Dutch prosecutors are also taking Eni and Shell to court in an attempt for another bite of the apple.
In Milan, two middlemen part of the deal have already been convicted for corruption and jailed for four years.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.