A few days after Nigeria commenced prosecution of persons involved in the OPL 245 scandal, Italian officials are also set to commence prosecution of Italians and firms involved in the shady deal.
As part of their findings, Italian prosecutors said officials of Italian oil giant, Eni, may have received $50 million bribe from the $1.1 billion the company and Shell paid into a Nigerian government account in 2011.
The money was to allow the oil firms have control of OPL 245, Nigeria’s richest oil block estimated to contain over 9 billion barrels of crude oil.
The Italian prosecutors have now concluded their investigations into the roles of Shell and ENI in the OPL 245 controversy and are set for prosecution.
In their 12-page final report, Italian prosecutors, Fabio De Pasquale and Sergio Spadaro, concluded that 11 individuals and two companies were culpable and could be prosecuted for their roles in the deal. The individuals include the CEO of Eni, Claudio Descalzi; his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni; and businessman Luigi Bisignani, Italian media reported on Friday.
The investigators said €50 million cash was delivered to the Abuja home of Roberto Casula, who was then the head of Eni’s business operations in sub-Saharan Africa. The money was supposedly meant for “administrators and Eni executives,” the Italian Newspaper, ilfatto quotidiano, reports.
The investigations also revealed that contrary to claims by Shell and Eni, officials of the Italian firm negotiated with former Nigerian petroleum minister, Dan Etete, and definitely knew the money they were paying to the Nigerian government would end up in Malabu accounts controlled by him.
The revelation that the Italian prosecutors are set to commence prosecution of Italians and multinational firms involved in the shady deals occurs few days after Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, EFCC, commenced the prosecution of some Nigerians and local firms found culpable in the scandal.
Sources at the EFCC and the office of Nigeria’s attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, told PREMIUM TIMES the Italian prosecutors have been coordinating and cooperating with their Nigerian counterparts. Fabio de Pasquale and other Italian prosecutors have been guests of their Nigerian counterparts several times in the past year.
Also, to ensure seamless prosecution of the indicted officials both in Nigeria and Italy, the two countries recently signed a mutual legal assistance treaty.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the EFCC on Tuesday, filed a nine-count corruption and money laundering charge against Mr. Etete, former Attorney General Mohammed Adoke, and controversial businessman Abubakar Aliyu for their roles in the scam.
Mr. Adoke it was, who authorised the transfer of $801 million of the money paid by Shell and Eni to Malabu accounts controlled by Mr. Etete despite having prior knowledge of the latter’s previous criminalities including manipulation of company registration documents of Malabu.
The former attorney general has however denied any wrongdoing and has pledged to return toNigeria to face charges.
Mr. Etete subsequently transferred over $450 million of the money he received into accounts offictitious companies controlled by Mr. Aliyu who investigators believe was a front for interested parties and top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration including Mr. Adoke. Those four companies were also charged by the EFCC on Tuesday.
Mr. Etete would later tell a British Court that only $250 million of the money truly belonged to him. The €50 million cash the Italian Mr. Casula received in Abuja is believed to be part of the money transferred to Mr. Aliyu by Mr. Etete.
Apart from the charges filed on Tuesday, sources at the EFCC and the Attorney General’s office told PREMIUM TIMES that more charges would be filed against individuals and firms in relation to OPL 245 after the federal high court resumes in January.
In his reaction to the charges filed by the EFCC, Simon Taylor, Director of UK based Global Witness, said, “We applaud the Nigerian authorities for fighting back against corruption without fear or favour, making sure there are real consequences for taking part in shady deals like with OPL 245.”
“This is a great step forward with the Nigerian authorities showing they are serious about tackling corruption. European and American law enforcement must also step up by fully cooperating and prosecuting anyone else culpable in this corrupt deal,” another transparency campaigner, Nicholas Hildyard of Corner House, said,
In reaction to the conclusion of investigations by the Italians, Barnaby Pace, a campaigner at Global Witness, a UK firm dedicated to transparency in the extractive sector, commended the investigations.
“Shady deals allow corrupt elites to profit at the expense of ordinary citizens. Shell and Eni now have to answer to the Italian courts, the public and their shareholders for their part in the corrupt deal for OPL 245 – oil companies can’t get away with this kind of behaviour any longer,” he said.
Another transparency campaigner, Antonio Tricarico of Re:Common in Italy, said, “The move by Milan prosecutors today vindicates what we have believed since we filed our complaint in 2013, that the OPL 245 deal is a case of grand corruption. Eni, Shell and their managers should be held accountable for any wrongdoing.”