OPL 245: Eni Rejects Italian Prosecutor’s Requests for Conviction of Its CEOs

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Italian energy giant, Eni has rejected the request by Italian prosecutors, asking for oil majors – Eni and Shell to be fined and some of their present and former executives, including Eni CEO, Mr. Claudio Descalzi, to be jailed in a long-running trial over alleged corruption in Nigeria..

The prosecutors alleged that Eni and Shell acquired Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 245, a Nigerian oilfield in 2011, knowing most of the $1.3 billion purchase price would go to politicians and middlemen in bribes.

In a Milan court, prosecutors on Tuesday asked for eight years in prison for Descalzi and seven years and four months for Shell’s former Head of Upstream, Mr. Malcolm Brinded.

But in a swift reaction, Eni, in a statement issued yesterday by the Nigerian Ajip Oil Company (NAOC), said it considered the Public Prosecutor’s requests for conviction of the company, its former and current CEOs and the managers involved in the OPL 245 proceeding as completely groundless.

The statement argued that during its indictment, in the absence of any evidence or tangible reference to the contents of the trial investigation, the Public Prosecutor told a story based on suggestions and deductions as already developed during the investigation.

NAOC insisted that this narrative ignores both the witnesses and the files presented within the two years long and more than 40 hearings proceeding, that have decisively denied the prosecutorial hypothesis.

“Defence lawyers are going to show to the Court that both Eni and its management’s conducts were correct in the OPL 245 transaction. Eni and Shell paid a reasonable price for the license directly to the Nigerian Government, as contractually agreed and through transparent and linear means. Furthermore, Eni neither knew nor should have been aware of the possible destination of the money subsequently paid by the Nigerian government to Malabu. Moreover, the payment was made after an inquiry carried on by the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

“So, there can therefore be no bribes from Eni in Nigeria, no existence of an Eni scandal. Eni recalls the decision of the Department of Justice and the US SEC, which decided to close its own investigations without taking any action against the company.”

“The multiple internal investigations entrusted to international third parties by the company’s supervisory bodies have long since highlighted the absence of unlawful conduct. Eni trusts that the truth can finally be re-established following the defensive arguments that will be presented at the end of September, pending the Milan Court’s forthcoming verdict,” NAOC explained.