Dutch Ambassador leaked confidential information to Shell — Report

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The Dutch ambassador to Nigeria, Robert Petri, leaked confidential information about an extensive corruption investigation into the operation of Shell in Nigeria to the oil company, a news report has said.

NRC, a Dutch online news outlet, reported that at the end of 2017, the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria leaked the confidential information to the oil company.

An investigation into Mr Petri’s tenure as ambassador to Nigeria was prompted by a complaint of integrity received by the country, the report revealed. The leakage of the confidential information fueled tensions at the embassy.

After two internal investigations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled Mr. Petri back to the Netherlands in early 2019. The investigations revealed, among other things, a sick working atmosphere at the embassy.

Several partner organisations complained to the ministry that Mr Petri was too much on Shell’s hand.

Shell in Nigeria

Shell extracts a lot of oil and gas from Nigerian soil, and that is associated with pollution, sabotage, tax lawsuits, protests from the local population and suspected corruption.

According to the report, when Mr Petri assumed office, he had to deal with cleaning, partly financed by the Netherlands, of a major oil spill at Bodo, near Bonny Island.

Four widows of the Ogoni leaders executed in 1995 recently filed a lawsuit against Shell in The Hague. The Dutch corruption investigation into Shell around OPL 245, a gigantic oil field off the Nigerian coast, is also in full swing.

Malabu Scandal

Tagged Malabu scandal, the OPL 245 issue involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by oil multinationals, Shell and ENI, through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by Mr Etete.

From accounts controlled by Mr Etete, about half the money ($520 million) went to the accounts of companies controlled by Abubakar Aliyu, popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil.

Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well of officials of Shell and ENI.

The transaction was authorised in 2011 by Mr Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers, and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.

Although Shell and ENI initially claimed they did not know the money would end up with Mr Etete and his cronies, evidence has shown that claim to be false.

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Shell, Eni, Mr Etete, Mr Aliyu and several officials of the oil firms are being prosecuted in Italy for their roles in the scandal.

As an ambassador, Mr Petri’s position was delicate as he must represent the interests of the Netherlands and Dutch companies, but also propagate Dutch values such as socially responsible and environmentally conscious entrepreneurship.

Mr Petri was recalled to the Netherlands after 15 months, after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs identified major problems at the post in Abuja.

Research by NRC further shows that the ministry only intervened after two consecutive inspections. First was an integrity investigation into Petri, at the end of 2018, and subsequently a specially inserted investigation into the working climate at the embassy, at the beginning of 2019.

FIOD traveled to Abuja in December 2017 as part of the criminal investigation into Shell’s alleged large-scale bribery in Nigeria. The embassy had prepared the visit of the FIOD officers to their Nigerian sister organisation, EFCC.

Mr Petri was found to have shared confidential information about an impending visit by the tax investigative service FIOD to Nigeria at the end of 2017 with the local Shell director. He allegedly did this during a visit with his wife to the man’s residence.

Reactions

In its response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed that in 2018 “a report was received regarding the then ambassador”. An investigation of the facts was then carried out.

According to the spokesperson said, “The investigation and its consequences are confidential.”

NRC reports that Mr Petri himself did not respond.

In a response, Shell confirmed that it received information from the ambassador about the impending FIOD visit.

“The oil company has done nothing with that,” said a spokesman. “The information has been recorded and no further action has been taken.”

The Public Prosecution Service said that it was aware of the state of affairs at Foreign Affairs.

A spokesperson said, “When information about an ongoing investigation is shared in confidence, it is not allowed to subsequently share this information with third parties. This could harm criminal investigations and that is of course undesirable.”

The EFCC, like the Dutch and the Italian authorities, is investigating the corruption affair surrounding the Nigerian oil field OPL245.



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