Acquittal of Eni and Shell in Nigeria case faces legal challenge

The Nigerian government said at the time it was surprised and disappointed by the verdict

  
The logo of Italian energy company Eni is seen at a gas station in Rome, Italy September 30, 2018.

The logo of Italian energy company Eni is seen at a gas station in Rome, Italy September 30, 2018.

REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

MILAN- Italian prosecutors and the Nigerian government have appealed the acquittal of Eni and Shell, as well as a series of past and present managers, in a Nigerian corruption case, according to a document seen by Reuters.

In March, a Milan court acquitted the two companies and defendants in the oil industry's biggest corruption case involving the $1.3 billion acquisition of a Nigerian oilfield a decade ago. 

The Nigerian government said at the time it was surprised and disappointed by the verdict and would consider lodging an appeal.

The case revolved around a deal in which Eni and Shell acquired the OPL 245 offshore oilfield in 2011 to settle a long-standing dispute over ownership.

Prosecutors alleged that just under $1.1 billion of that amount was siphoned off to politicians and middlemen.

The court in Milan said there was no case to answer and acquitted the companies and all other defendants.

"We have always maintained that the 2011 settlement was legal. We will review the appeal that has been filed," a Shell spokesperson said.

Eni said it acknowledged the appeal by the prosecutors and Nigerian government. "Waiting to read the reasons for the appeal; Eni confirms its total extraneousness to the contested facts," a spokesperson said.

Last month, two prosecutors in the case were placed under official investigation by magistrates for allegedly not filing documents that would have supported Eni's position. Italy's justice ministry ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the pair. 

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Additional reporting by Ron Bousso and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Agnieszka Flak and Mike Harrison) ((stephen.jewkes@thomsonreuters.com; +39.0266129695; Reuters Messaging: stephen.jewkes.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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