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Shell Faces Trial In The Netherlands Over Nigeria Oil Block Deal

Shell is facing prosecution from the Dutch authorities over its acquisition of an offshore oil and gas block in Nigeria a few years ago, Reuters reports. The Anglo-Dutch supermajor is already a defendant in a trial for the same deal in Italy.

The 2011 acquisition of block OPL 245 in Nigeria by Shell and Eni, 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 insisted they were unaware of any wrongdoing at the time.

“Based on the preliminary criminal investigation, public prosecutors concluded that there are prosecutable offences,” Reuters quoted a spokeswoman for the Dutch prosecution authorities as saying.

The Dutch prosecutors add pressure on the supermajor, which is also being targeted by the Nigerian authorities for unpaid taxes, media reported earlier this month.

Nigeria has demanded that several international oil companies that operate in the country pay about US$20 billion in taxes they owed to local states. Among them, in addition to Shell, are Total, Chevron, and again Italy’s Eni.

Shell is the largest investor in Nigeria among these companies and has denied it owed any tax payments. The company also said it will dispute the government’s demand, adding the affair would delay the start of expanded production at one of Nigeria’s largest fields, Bonga.

Separately, a trial about OLP 245 is due to begin at the end of this month in Nigeria. This case, brought to the court by a human rights organization—Human and Environmental Development Agenda—seeks the revoking of the license for OPL 245 citing transparency and accountability problems with the process that led to its issuance.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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