The UK court has finally jettisoned the $1.1 billion claim brought before court by Nigeria against Royal Dutch Shell and Eni as related to a dispute over the OPL 245 oilfield. The presiding judge made the outright dismissal recently over the allegation brought before the honorable court by Nigeria government that payments made by the super majors to get the oilfield licence in 2011 were used for kickbacks and bribes. According to the Judge, the case was dismissed on the grounds that the UK has no jurisdiction to try the lawsuit that is basically the same for which Shell and Eni are currently under trial in Italy. The High Court presiding Judge, Justice Butcher in his ruling as sighted by Reuters stated that the court “must decline jurisdiction over the action against” Shell and the other defendants based on the above ongoing same trial in Italy.
The multinational companies are currently standing trial in Milan Italy under the Italian legislation that mandates companies be liable for crimes committed by directors and executives when a suspected unlawful conduct has benefited the legal entity. Shell spokeswoman said the company welcomed the decision. “We maintain that the 2011 settlement as related to OPL 245 was a fully legal transaction with Eni and the Federal Government of Nigeria ,” she said. A spokesman for Nigeria said it was “naturally disappointed the Court has declined jurisdiction”.
“Nigeria continues to support the criminal proceedings underway in Milan and we intend to seek permission to appeal this decision (in London),” the spokesman said.
The 2011 acquisition of block OPL 245, according to Italian and Nigerian prosecutors, involved a transfer of money to personal accounts held by the Nigerian oil minister at the time. The sum of the OPL 245 deal was US$1.3 billion, an investigation revealed, of which US$1.1 billion was used to bribe politicians and businessmen to secure the deal. Shell and Eni have always insisted that at the time, they were unaware of any wrongdoing. The present Nigerian government of President Mohammadu Buhari in dissatisfaction of the above transactions filed the case in 2018 at a commercial court in London. The trial in Milan is in its final stages in executing judgments, but the prevalence of the global covid-19 pandemic is believed to be a delaying factor for the timely passage of judgments to the lawsuit, meanwhile other lawsuits are pending elsewhere over the same Nigerian oil deal.
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