Nigeria on Wednesday asked a court in Milan, Italy, to order Eni and Royal Dutch Shell to pay $1.092bn as an immediate advance payment for damages in one of the oil industry’s biggest-ever corruption scandals.
Reuters reported that at a hearing into alleged corruption around the 2011 acquisition by Eni and Shell of the OPL 245 offshore field, Lucio Lucia, lawyer for the Nigerian Government, called for the advance payment ahead of a broader damages package to be set by the court at a later date.
SaharaReporters gathered that this was the first time a foreign government was asking for damages in an Italian court.
The $1.092bn is said to be the equivalent of bribes alleged to have been paid.
The Malabu scandal involves the transfer of about $1.1bn by oil multinationals, Shell and ENI, through the Nigerian Government to accounts controlled by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete.
From accounts controlled by Etete, about half the money ($520m) went to the accounts of companies jointly controlled by Abubakar Aliyu popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil, and Etete.
Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect that Aliyu fronted for top officials of the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration as well as officials of Shell and ENI.
The transaction was authorised in 2011 by Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.
Although Shell and ENI initially claimed they did not know the money would end up with Etete and his cronies, evidence had shown the claim to be false.
Shell later admitted that it did know the money would go to Etete.
Shell, Eni, Etete, Aliyu and several officials of the oil firms are being prosecuted in Italy for their roles in the scandal.