Trial of Shell, Eni over Nigeria to switch to new Milan court

Trial of Shell, Eni over Nigeria to switch to new Milan court”

An Italian court has postponed the start of a trial of Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSA) and Eni executives over alleged corruption in Nigeria, Reuters has reported.

The trial will now begin on May 14.

The court is expected to set the new trial date on Monday, the sources said.

The companies are also facing charges in Nigeria over the case, which concerns Nigeria's OPL-245 - an offshore oilfield estimated to hold 9bn barrels of crude oil - secured by Shell and Eni in 2011.

Prosecutors said bribes were paid to win the licence to explore the field, which has never entered into production.

Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the EFCC, filed corruption charges against Shell and Eni in March 2017, accusing 11 defendants, including Etete, of "official corruption" in connection with the deal.

The agreement allegedly saw Nigeria's former president Goodluck Jonathan and former oil minister Etete pocket bribes, according to corruption watchdog Global Witness.

A Milan judge ruled in December that the companies, along with present and past executives, would face trial.

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He further argued that going ahead with the prosecution of the suspects will portray Nigeria in bad light before the worldwide community and foreign investors, who could see Nigeria as a country that could not be trusted to respect its obligations to global partners.

The case involves the purchase of an offshore oil block in Nigeria for $1.3bn (£1bn) in 2011.

The confusion within the Nigerian government on how to proceed with the scandal reared its head in Italy.

Meanwhile, Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), one of the activist groups that sparked off the trial, has said it was shocked and deeply disturbed by the "confused appearance" of the federal government in court on Monday.

"Eni and Shell closed the deal with the government without the involvement of an intermediary".

"There is now a very real risk that both instructed lawyers will not be recognized by the court, leaving the FRN out in the cold".

Milan prosecutors also have opened an investigation into allegations that Eni legal representatives tried to throw investigators off of the Nigeria case.

The meeting followed a revelation two weeks ago that Mr. Malami had written to President Buhari to prevent Nigeria's anti-fraud police, Economic and financial Crimes Commission from prosecuting a former Attorney General and Minister for Oil Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke who were named in the bribery scam by Italian investigators and prosecutors in Milan.

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