CASTELBUONO, Sicily (CN) — A massive corruption trial in Milan involving Royal Dutch Shell, Italy-based Eni and a lucrative offshore Nigerian oil field is underway.
The court heard the first testimony in the case Wednesday and Friday. More hearings are scheduled until the end of October.
The trial centers on allegations of a sprawling $1.3 billion bribery deal that involved Royal Dutch Shell Plc. and Italy-based Eni S.p.A. executives. The oil giants allegedly worked out a corrupt deal with Nigerian officials, including then-President Goodluck Jonathan, to buy a much-coveted oilfield off the coast of Nigeria, known as OPL 245.
This week’s hearings featured testimony from Col. Alessandro Ferri, a commander with Italy’s finance police and a lead investigator in the case. He was cross-examined Friday.
In his testimony, Ferri described the high points of the investigation, which included working with agents from the Metropolitan Police in London, U.S. authorities and Dutch police. His testimony touched on wiretaps, a raid on Shell headquarters in the Netherlands and tracing money transfers from Great Britain to Nigeria.
Two middlemen were convicted in the case on Sept. 20 and sentenced to four years for international corruption. Emeka Obi and Gianluca Di Nardo were convicted in an abbreviated closed-door legal procedure.
Shell and Eni have denied wrongdoing.
In December 2017, Milan judges ordered the companies and defendants to stand trial. Milan prosecutors say the corrupt deal was negotiated and enacted between 2009 and 2014 in a complex web of interests.
In court documents, prosecutors said the deal involved top oil company executives, two former British secret service members, shady bank transfers and cash payments, many of which went to former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete, who allegedly obtained the lucrative oilfield through a company called Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.
Among those accused of international corruption are Paolo Scaroni, who was CEO and executive director of Eni at the time of the alleged bribery, and Claudio Descalzi, who serves as Eni’s CEO now. These high-profile defendants were not present in the courtroom and were represented by lawyers this week.
Also facing charges are Malcolm Brinded, former chief exploration director at Shell, and Peter Robinson, a former vice president for sub-Saharan Africa at Shell.