An Italian Judge has ordered Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, a Nigerian businessman involved in the controversial Eni and Shell OPL-245 offshore oilfield deal, to stand trial over alleged international corruption charges. Abubakar was said to have played a major role in the deal where he handed out more than $500 million in cash to powerful Nigerian government officials. The money he handed out was reportedly part of the $1.3 billion license fee paid by Eni and Shell for access to the OPL-245 offshore oilfield. However, Abubakar has denied any wrongdoing as his lawyer Davide Pozzi said that he would clarify his position at the appropriate place.
Eni and Shell have been accused by the Italian prosecutors of knowing that most of the purchase price of the oil field would be siphoned off to middlemen and local politicians as a bribe. However, Eni has denied any wrongdoing as stated by its Chief Executive, Claudio Descalzi. Prior to this, Abubakar had been under investigation but the prosecutors were unable to locate him to put him on trial until when he appeared on the case as a witness via a video linkup in February 2019.
His lawyer made known that his trial has been scheduled for May 14 before a court in Milan. Meanwhile, prosecutors are due to begin work, summing up and setting out sentencing requests for Descalzi and other defendants from March 25. It will be recalled that in 2011, ENI and Shell jointly acquired the OPL 245 oilfield for $1.3 billion. Since the acquisition happened, the deal has been shrouded in controversies, with many allegations of corruption levelled against the companies. Shell and ENI have been accused of paying bribes to Nigerian officials to the tune of $1.1 billion. These accusations surrounding the deal have always been denied by the companies, which is why the latest denial by Descalzi comes as no surprise.