A group of non-governmental organisations have filed a criminal complaint against oil giant Shell and its current and former European directors, calling on the Dutch government to investigate them for foreign corruption and complicity in money laundering in Africa’s largest economy.
Shell is alleged to have purchased exploitation rights to Nigerian oil block OPL245 from a firm called Malabu Oil & Gas, which is suspected to have been illegally awarded the license by its beneficial owner Dan Etete when he was oil Minister.
It is understood that Shell and Italian oil major Eni jointly paid around $1.3 billion for the deal to the Nigerian government, which transferred some $800 million of that money to Malabu, said Prakken d’Oliveira, the law firm representing the NGOs.
Only $210 million reached the Nigerian government coffers, while the money paid to Malabu was rapidly dispersed to a number of shell companies, it said.
Separately, the case regarding Shell’s payments to Malabu is being investigated in Italy, where prosecutors allege that the payments made were in actual fact bribes.
An Italian magistrate has also alleged that monies were intended for the remuneration of a former Nigerian president and other members of the Nigerian government in office at the time.
The NGOs pursuing Shell and its former and current exeutives are Corner House (UK), Global Witness (UK), HEDA Resource Centre (Nigeria) and Re:Common (Italy).
In October Global Witness said Shell had made a dramatic u-turn, admitting that it knew its billion dollar payment would go to convicted money-launderer and former oil minister Etete in exchange for the oil block.
“This could be the biggest corporate bribery trial in history, and a watershed moment for the oil industry.
“The top brass of the UK’s largest company is in the dock after it finally admitted dealing with a convicted rmoney launderer,” said Barnaby Pace of Global Witness.
“There can be no clearer sign that wholesale change is needed. Shell must first apologise to the Nigerian people, then take clear steps to reassure investors and the broader public that this won’t happen again.”
The decision on whether the Italian prosecution will be pursued is expected at the end of December.