A judge has ruled that Shell, Italian firm Eni and some of their senior figures should be tried for aggravated international corruption over their purchase of a Nigerian oil block.
The judge ruled in an Italian court that several Eni and Shell employees should stand trial alongside the two companies. These include Eni’s former chief executive officer, its former chief operations officer and one of Shell’s former executive directors.
The trial, which will begin in Milan in March, relates to the purchase of an oil block – a huge area of land that can be used for drilling for oil. Both companies deny any wrongdoing.
In 2011, Shell and Eni paid US$1.3 billion to buy oil block OPL 245. Instead of this money going to the Nigerian government, it went to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by the then Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete, and was used to pay bribes.
Eni and Shell both initially denied knowing that the money would go to Etete. But after anti-corruption charities Finance Uncovered and Global Witness published leaked emails, Shell admitted that it did know the money would go to him. Shell and Eni are still under investigation in the Netherlands and Nigeria over the deal.
Whatever the outcome of the trial, this case emphasises the need to be determined and methodical when it comes to avoiding bribery. Hoping bribery is not being used to secure business is simply no defence.
Many energy companies are now facing investigations into bribery around the globe. Having adequate procedures in place is the only worthwhile defence to bribery allegations.
Read our article: MANAGING THE PROBLEM OF BRIBERY IN HIGH RISK COUNTRIES