Aliyu Abubakar, chairman of AA Oil was an agent of former president Goodluck Jonathan helping him distribute $520million in cash bribes, Italian prosecutors said in court documents filed in a Milan on March 13.
The charge sheet seen by BusinessDay charged that Scaroni, in his capacity as CEO and Executive Director of Eni, among other things met personally, together with Descalzi, and Jonathan, during both the finalisation of agreements phase (13 August 2010) and the final phase, during an election rally in Nigeria on 22 February 2011.
Earlier, the prosecutors had said that Goodluck Jonathan probably received as much as $200 million to approve the controversial $1.3 billion sale of OPL 245 oil field.
The prosecutors also accuse Etete and other players of received authorisation from Oil Minister Diezani to dispose of 100% of OPL 245, following a decision taken by President Jonathan and conducted confidential negotiations with Aliyu, who was operating as an agent for Goodluck Jonathan.
Barneby Pace, of Global Witness who was at the court in Milan said that the prosecutor started by saying that an Italian lawyer who claimed to be acting for Aliyu Abubakar visited them yesterday asking for a new delay. The lawyer failed to appear in court and did not provide a written request, leading prosecutors to push that the trial should go ahead.
Aliyu Abubakar confirmed that he has received the information regarding the charges against him and his lawyers for a delay in giving his testimony. He is supported by some defendants saying that Abubakar is an important witness and his new lawyers haven’t had time to review all the evidence.
The judges rule that given the seriousness and complexity of even just the charges against Abubakar a delay should be granted and the prosecutor will offer a new date.
Abubakar is facing charges in Italy in this case but prosecutors weren’t able to serve the papers on Abubakar until recently. Given the scope of the charges and evidence against him he and his lawyers are given time to digest it
Nigeria is projected to lose $6bn in future revenues because of damaging terms in the contracts.
“This is one of the biggest corporate corruption trials in history with Shell and Eni and some of their most senior executives in the dock accused of massive corruption,” said Pace, “We hope that this trial signals that powerful companies are not above the law and can be held to account.”
Italian prosecutors are arguing that when Shell and Eni paid more than $1bn to settle legal disputes over the block and acquired rights to develop it, much of that payment went into bribes and kickbacks.
An Italian judge IN 2017 ordered Royal Dutch Shell and Eni to stand trial over alleged corruption in Nigeria involving the award of OPL 245 nine years ago. Apart from the two companies, 13 people including Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni, and former chairman of the Shell Foundation Malcolm Brinded would be tried for their roles in the deal.
Italian prosecutors had earlier indicted Shell and Agip for their role in the 2011 messy deal in which Nigeria sold the juicy oil block to the two oil majors. Dan Etete, a former petroleum minister, and Bello Adoke, a former Attorney-General, are amongst several Nigerians indicted in the deal, which was approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. Shell and Eni’s Nigerian subsidiary, Agip, are also among those already being prosecuted in Nigeria.
In 2011 Shell and Italian oil giant Eni paid $1.1 billion for OPL 245, an oil block located on the southern edge of the Niger Delta allegedly knowing that the money would go to a front company secretly owned by Dan Etete, who had been convicted for money-laundering.
The saga began as far back as 1996 when Etete, awarded himself the oil block while in office under the former military dictator Sani Abacha, through Malabu Oil and Gas, a company he owned.
Under Italian law a company can be held responsible if it is deemed to have failed to prevent, or attempt to prevent, a crime by an employee that benefited the company.