Malabu Oil Deal: US Ends Probe of Italy’s Eni for Alleged Corruption

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Ejiofor Alike with agency reports

The United States Justice Department has closed its investigations into alleged corruption by oil major Eni in Nigeria and Algeria without taking any action, the Italian energy group said yesterday.

Eni, the biggest foreign oil and gas producer in Africa, is currently on trial in Milan on graft allegations revolving around the acquisition of a giant Nigerian oilfield in 2011.

In that case, Eni and peer Royal Dutch Shell are accused of buying the Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 245 offshore field, better known as Malabu oilfield, for about $1.3 billion in a deal that spawned one of the industry’s largest graft scandals.

Milan prosecutors alleged that about $1.1 billion of the total was siphoned off to pay politicians, businessmen and middlemen.

Eni and Shell have denied any wrongdoing.

“Today’s decision by the DOJ confirms the findings of independent advisors, who conducted investigations into the claims… which also found no illegal activity,” Eni said.

Reuters quoted Eni as saying it is confident the allegations levelled against it by prosecutors in the Milan court case would be found groundless.

Eni had also been involved in a long-running corruption case involving its previously 43 per cent-owned unit Saipem over alleged bribes in Algeria paid to win contracts.

A Milan court acquitted Eni last year.

Besides Eni and Shell, the main trial also involves Eni’s CEO, Claudio Descalzi and four ex-Shell managers, including former Shell Foundation Chairman, Malcolm Brinded.