UPDATE 1-UK court throws out Nigerian oil corruption case against Shell, Eni

  • May 22, 2020
  • Reuters - Africa

* Main OPL 245 trial in Milan against Shell, Eni continues

* Proceedings in related case of Nigeria vs JP Morgan continues (Adds details)

LONDON, May 22 (Reuters) - An English court threw out a $1.1 billion case Nigeria had brought against Royal Dutch Shell and Eni related to a dispute over the OPL 245 oilfield, a court document showed on Friday, while a related trial in Italy continues.

The Nigerian government filed the case in 2018 at a commercial court in London alleging payments made by the companies to get the OPL 245 oilfield licence in 2011 were used for kickbacks and bribes.

Justice Butcher said in his ruling seen by Reuters that the High Court “must decline jurisdiction over the action against” Shell and the other defendants.

Eni, which has said it did nothing wrong, had no immediate comment. A Shell spokeswoman said the company welcomed the decision. “We maintain that the 2011 settlement... related to OPL 245 was a fully legal transaction with Eni and the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), represented by the most senior officials of the relevant ministries,” she said.

A spokesman for Nigeria said in a statement that it was “naturally disappointed the Court has declined jurisdiction over its civil claim”.

“Nigeria continues to support the criminal proceedings underway in Milan and maintains that the separate civil proceedings in London have an entirely different legal basis... we intend to seek permission to appeal this decision,” the spokeman said.

The OPL 245 oilfield is also central to a corruption trial in Milan in which former and current Shell and Eni officials are on the bench, as well as court proceedings Nigeria started against JP Morgan, which processed some of the payments in question.

The bank has said it considers the allegations against it “unsubstantiated and without merit”.

The Shell spokeswoman said that, based on the company’s review of the Prosecutor of Milan’s file, it did not believe there was a case to answer.

Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Additional reporting by Libby George, Ron Bousso, Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Edmund Blair, Kirsten Donovan