The gale of acquittals in the Malabu oil scandal continued on Thursday; with an Appeal Court in Italy overturning jail sentences handed down to a Nigerian, Emeka Obi.
Also acquitted was an Italian, Gianluca Di Nardo for their part in the Malabu scam; involving Eni and Shell in Nigeria.
The decision to acquit the duo was taken behind closed doors but read out to reporters afterwards. Reuters reports that the three judges quashed the convictions and said there was no case to answer.
The three judges also lifted orders seizing assets worth $98.4 million from Obi; as well as more than 21 million Swiss francs ($23 million) from Di Nardo.
Interestingly, the prosecution had asked for the sentences to be overturned.
This came after a court in March acquitted Eni and Shell in the long-drawn Malabu oil case. The messy case involved the alleged fraudulent acquisition of a Nigerian oilfield for about $1.3 billion.
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However, the judges had dismissed the charges against the companies and defendants; ruling that they all had no case to answer.
The two new acquitted defendants, Obi and Di Nardo, were accused of being middlemen in the oily deal. Specifically, they were accused of taking illegal kickbacks.
Both men were convicted in a fast-track trial back in 2018; separate from the main one, Reuters revealed.
They were both sentenced to four years in jail, but had not started to serve them. Under Italian law, a fast-track trial, which is based only on documents with no hearings or witnesses, allows sentences to be cut by a third.
“An unjust sentence by the court of first instance conditioned by a macroscopic violation of the law,” Reuters quoted Obi’s lawyer Roberto Pisano as saying, referring to the original conviction.
1st News had reported that the Italian Justice Ministry had; earlier in June, ordered an inquiry into the conduct of two prosecutors in the main case involving Eni and Shell.