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US Justice Department closes investigations on Eni’s Nigerian, Algerian cases

US Justice Department closes investigations on Eni’s Nigerian, Algerian cases

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) would be taking no action against Eni as it shelved investigations into corruption allegations against the Italian oil major in the purchase of a Nigerian oil field in 2011, the company said Tuesday.

The DOJ also closed a graft case in Algeria against the oil company in a similar fashion. An Italian court had in 2018 acquitted the energy major and ex-CEO Paolo Scaroni of bribery in the same case.

Eni said the decision by the DOJ “confirms the findings of independent advisors, who conducted investigations into the claims following the decision taken by Eni’s controlling bodies, which also found no illegal activity”.

The Italian company expressed confidence that allegations currently put forward before the Court of Milan, where it is facing trial for a Nigerian oil deal, would be found to be groundless.
The Nigerian corruption trial, also known as the Malabu case, is almost a decade old and began in 2011 when Eni and Royal Dutch Shell reportedly paid $1.3 billion into the coffers of the Nigerian government for an offshore oilfield licence.

The offshore oilfield called oil prospecting licence (OPL) 245 was said to have been worth $3 billion but most of the payments made by Shell and Eni ended up in Malabu Oil and Gas, controlled by Dan Etete, then oil minister of Nigeria.

Both companies have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

A source told Sahara Reporters in the United Kingdom that the decision of the DOJ would have no bearing on what steps regulators in the United States of America would take once the trial in Italy is concluded. In a trial hearing in July, Italian prosecutor in the Nigerian corruption case involving Eni said the oil company attempted to tamper with the court case.

Prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale said that officials of Eni approached Vincenzo Armanna, a defendant and witness in the case, to withdraw some statements made during investigations.
Armanna, a former manager who led Eni to acquire OPL-245 field in 2011, had informed investigators that his former colleagues were aware of the shoddy transactions involved in purchasing rights to a Nigerian oilfield.

Eni denied claims of obstruction of justice. The oil company has also insisted on its innocence in the corruption trial which has involved many actors including Shell, JPMorgan and political figures in Nigeria.

 

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