An Italian court has postponed the start of a trial of Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSA) and Eni executives over alleged corruption in Nigeria, Reuters has reported. The trial, which was originally expected to start today, has been delayed until May 14.
Shell’s share price has been subdued in London this Monday, having given up 0.33 percent to 2,242.00p as of 14:21 GMT. The group’s shares are marginally underperforming the broader UK market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index currently standing 0.07 percent lower at 7,064.74 points. The group’s shares have added a little over five percent to their value over the past year, as compared with more than a four-percent drop in the Footsie.
Nigeria trial postponed until May
Reuters reported today that an Italian court had postponed to May 14 the start of a trial of Shell and Eni executives over their purchase in 2011 of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oilfield – one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks – for about $1.3 billion. Milan prosecutors allege that bribes were paid to win the licence to explore the field which, however, has never entered into production.
The trial was expected to start today, after in December, a Milan judge ruled that the companies, along with present and past executives, would face trial. At the time, the Anglo-Dutch oil major said that it believed that the trial judges would conclude that there was no case against the company and former staff.
Court case could last a year
The Guardian meanwhile noted yesterday that the court case was expected to last at least a year, with prosecutors questioning oil executives and taking evidence on the alleged corruption and bribery involved in an extraordinary effort to win the licence. The newspaper notes that Nigeria’s financial watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is also looking into the case, with a court hearing planned for June.