Home News Malabu oil scandal: Dutch prosecutors set to charge Shell

Malabu oil scandal: Dutch prosecutors set to charge Shell

by Business News Report

Dutch prosecutors are preparing criminal charges against Royal Dutch Shell over its $1.3 billion acquisition of Nigerian offshore oilfield OPL 245 in 2011. Shell said in a statement on its website that it had been informed by the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (DPP) that it had nearly concluded its investigation and is preparing to prosecute Shell for criminal charges directly or indirectly related to the 2011 settlement of disputes over OPL 245. The Dutch decision piles pressure on Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell, which is already facing charges of bribery in a trial in Milan over the same deal alongside Italy’s Eni.

Prosecutors in Italy allege that the two oil companies knew that around $1.1 billion used for the acquisition of OPL 245 would be used to pay politicians, businessmen and middlemen.

Both oil firms have denied any wrongdoing. A spokeswoman for the Dutch prosecutors said: “Based on the preliminary criminal investigation, public prosecutors concluded that there are prosecutable offences”. Under the deal, Eni and Shell jointly acquired the OPL 245 field from a company owned by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete, who was convicted of money laundering in an unrelated case in France in 2007. Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi and four ex-Shell managers, including its former head of upstream, Malcolm Brinded, are also facing charges of international corruption in the Milan trial. All have denied any wrongdoing.

It was not clear whether the Dutch prosecutors will be relying on materials in a suitcase seized nearly three years ago by Swiss authorities from Emeka Obi, who was convicted by an Italian court over the Malabu oil bribes. The suitcase was unsealed two months ago and the contents were believed to have the potential to shed light on the recipients of the $1.2billion bribe. Among the documents in the suitcase were an external hard drive, British and African passports, and USB keys.

However Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, Manager, Media Communications of Shell Nigeria, has confirmed the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office investigations against Royal Dutch Shell (RDS).

Odugbesan, who confirmed the development to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos,  said the investigations was over its 1.3 billion dollars acquisition deals in Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245. Shell Nigeria spokesman said, “We have been informed by the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (DPP) that they are nearing the conclusion of their investigations and are preparing to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell Plc with criminal charges directly or indirectly related to the 2011 settlement of disputes over Oil Prospecting License 245 (OPL-245) in Nigeria.

“As appropriate, we will provide updates as this matter progresses,’’ he said.

Dutch authorities had issued a final notice of its intention to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell for criminal charges over OPL-245 oil and gas field in Nigeria, relating to the 2011 agreement between Nigerian officials and the company. Earlier in the year, four Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) wrote the Minister of Justice of The Netherlands to warn against out-of-court settlement in the case instituted by the Netherlands Government against Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS) and Shell Petroleum over the acquisition of the OPC-245 oil and gas field in Nigeria. They argued that they considered themselves as stakeholders in the case having submitted a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office in the Netherlands, requesting criminal investigation of RDS, Shell and Shell executives for offences under Dutch laws relating to the deal.

“We held that this (out-of-court settlement) will not be in the public interest unless stringent conditions are attached”, the letter, dated January 9, 2019 and signed by Nicholas Hildyard for the Corner House, Luca Manes for Re: Common, Olanrewaju Suraju for HEDA and Simon Taylor for Global Witness said. The groups explained that whereas, in principle, they were not opposed to out-of-court settlements in cases where the defendant was ineligible for a custodian sentence, any settlement that does not produce a remedy proportionate to the alleged crime could not be seen as just. They listed three grounds to justify their opposition to out-of-court settlement for RDS, Shell and Shell executives on the OPL 245 oil and gas field case as follows, “The defendants has vigorously denied any criminality, and consequently any settlement will establish a precedent that the Dutch system is prepared to tolerate corporate recidivism and any settlement without a full and clear statement of facts and admission of guilt will be contrary to the interests of open justice.”

The groups said that if, notwithstanding their concerns, the Netherlands authorities deemed a settlement to be in the public interest, it would be unacceptable to allow the companies to continue to profit from the alleged corruption in the OPL-245 deal.

According to them, should the Dutch Prosecutor have sufficient evidence, they will expect those prosecutions to go to trial, even if a settlement option is available. The bone of contention is the agreement which was made on April 29, 2011. It was made up of three separate resolution agreements.

The first, titled “BLOCK 245 MALABU RESOLUTION AGREEMENT” was signed between representatives of the Federal Government and those of Malabu, which was represented during the discussions by a former petroleum minister, Dan Etete. “The second agreement titled “BLOCK 245 RESOLUTION AGREEMENT” was between the Nigerian government and officials of Shell and Eni/AGIP; while the third agreement titled “BLOCK 245 SNUD RESOLUTION AGREEMENT”, was signed by officials of the Nigerian government and Shell. Former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke and former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, signed all the agreements on behalf of the Federal Government. (NAN)

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