An Italian judge has ordered Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSA) and Eni to stand trial over alleged bribery in Nigeria, Bloomberg has reported. The case is related to the companies’ purchase of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oilfield.
Shell’s share price has slipped marginally lower in London today, having given up 0.19 percent to 2,411.00p as of 13:30 GMT, underperforming the broader UK market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index currently standing at 7,544.73 points, flat in percentage terms. The group’s shares have added a little over a fifth to their value over the past year, as compared with about a seven-percent rise in the Footsie.
Shell ordered to stand trial
Bloomberg reported today that judge Giusy Barbara had told reports that Shell, Eni and senior executives would face trial over the acquisition of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oilfield in 2011. Prosecutors allege that the two companies’ payment of almost $1.1 billion into a Nigerian government escrow account was later distributed as payoffs.
“This is really quite a big precedent-setting case,” Barnaby Pace, a campaigner at watchdog Global Witness, told the newswire. “It’s unusual to see oil majors at the sharp end of the stick in this way.”
Shell said in a statement that it was “disappointed by the outcome of the preliminary hearing and the decision to indict Shell and its former employees,” noting that it believed that the trial judges would conclude that there is no case against the company and former staff.
“Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our Code of Conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company,” the oil major said.
The trial will start on March 5 in Milan.