Malabu scam: Nigeria loses $1bn case as court acquits Shell, Eni, Dan Etete, other defendants

Malabu scam: Nigeria loses $1bn case as court acquits Shell, Eni, Dan Etete, other defendants

Nigeria has lost a long-drawn court case over the Malabu oil scandal involving a former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete and oil majors, Shell and Eni.

A court sitting in Milan, Italy yesterday acquitted all the 15 defendants in the messy oil scandal.

1st News reports that the defendants include former Nigerian Minister, Etete; Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Eni CEO, Claudio Descalzi; its former chief and current AC Milan President, Paolo Scaroni; as well as a series of past and present managers in what Reuters describes as the oil industry’s biggest corruption scandal.

Eni and Shell were also acquitted.

The defendants were accused of paying bribes paid to land the OPL 245 oil licence in Nigeria in 2011. Nigeria had filed a suit before the Milan court seeking an order compelling Eni and Royal Dutch Shell to pay $1.092bn; specifically as an immediate advance payment for damages over the bribery case. It had also approached a UK court seeking the sum of $1bn in damages on the same case. The UK suit was dismissed last year.

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The sentence, read out in court by judge Marco Tremolada, comes more than three years after the trial first began and after a total of 74 hearings, Reuters reports.

Counsel for the Nigerian government, Lucio Lucia had called for a guilty verdict; as well as an advance payment during the hearing into the alleged corruption linked to the alleged corrupt acquisition of the OPL 245 field. Lucia had told the court that the disputed deal had deprived Nigeria of massive amounts in profit oil; adding that under two different scenarios, the profits that had been lost amounted to $4.5bn and $5.9bn respectively.

It was believed that Nigeria had a strong case in court. However, the acquittal of the defendants has brought a surprising end to a trial which lasted over three years.

Speaking to Italian media, Descalzi’s lawyer Paola Severino said her client’s international reputation has finally been restored; as well as that of Eni.

The long-drawn case centres around the purchase of the OPL 245 offshore field for about $1.3bn from Malabu; a company owned by a former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete. The oil field lies some 150km off the Niger Delta.

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