An Italian court has ruled that oil giants Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Eni SPA are not guilty in a bribery case involving a Nigerian oilfield that has spanned years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Shell, Eni, and Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi, have been on trial for years in the infamous OPL 245 case. Shell, Eni, Descalzi, and others, were accused of knowing that more than $1.1 billion of the $1.3 billion deposited a decade ago into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government would eventually be used as bribes to secure oil drilling rights.
A UK judge dismissed a similar case over the same deal in its courts last year. Eni and Shell have consistently said that they knew nothing about the bribes, although two middlemen in Shell and Eni were found guilty of corruption years ago in a separate trial over OPL 245.
The years-long court battle in the UK and Italy is now finally behind the oil majors. Nigeria was hoping to net a billion from the court case—a needed windfall since OPL 245 was, for the most part, never developed. But the battle between Shell and Nigeria is hardly over, after a Dutch court in January ruled that Nigerian citizens could sue the oil major for oil leaks in the area.
Shortly after that ruling, Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden said it would take a hard look at its operations onshore Nigeria after being hit with chronic issues with theft, illegal refining, and sabotage in the Niger Delta—the likely cause of several of the leaks that it may now be sued over. Shell continues to operate some 340 oil wells across Nigeria.