Emails have revealed that Shell were negotiating with Dan Etete, who was later convicted of money laundering in another case.
To gain access to the Nigerian oil field, both Shell and Italian oil company ENI paid out $1.3bn (£1bn) to the Nigerian government. Investigators have claimed that $1.1bn of this was passed on to Malabu; a company controlled by Etete.
Documents filed by Italian prosecutors claim that $466m of the $1.1bn was laundered and passed on to Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president at the time, and other members of his government. Jonathan has dismissed the allegations.
Shell has said it made repeated attempts to establish who ran Malabu. It has said that once it knew of Etete’s involvement, “the only way to resolve the impasse through a negotiated settlement was to engage with Etete and Malabu, whether we liked it or not.’’
The fact that Shell has finally admitted dealing with a money launderer is an honest step forward. But questions must be asked about the nature of Shell’s due diligence: companies must be alert to the signs of money laundering and take all possible precautions to avoid involvement.