Nigeria seize OPL 245 in US$1.2bn Shell/Eni fraud operation

DAF CF Shell Fuel bowser GTL Fuel OliecentraleShell and Eni are caught in the middle of a huge, international corruption scandal. (Image source: Alf van Beem/Commons)Nearly two decades after the OPL was awarded in Nigeria, the federal government is taking back control of the controversial OPL245 bloc and will continue the prosecution of oil giants Shell and Eni

Nigeria is seizing one of the richest oil blocs on the continent and is to prosecute oil giants Shell and Eni in a corruption scandal worth around US$1.2bn. The scandal has drawn in investigators from all around the world including the United States and a number of European States according to the Nigerian Federal High Court document. 

The bloc was estimated to contain 9bn barrels of crude and since 1998, there have been disputes over its control. According to All Africa, "Formed on April 20, 1998, Malabu was awarded the block 9 days later by the Sani Abacha government. For the next 12 years the oil block would change hands between Malabu, oil giant Shell and the Nigerian government as all parties schemed for control. That disagreement started in 2001 when the Nigeria government first canceled the award of the block to Malabu and gave it to Shell, investigations showed. The government would later revoke the allocation from Shell." 

In 2011, Shell and Agip - now Eni - bought the bloc for US$1.2bn. However, investigators have discovered that the payment to former petroleum minister Dan Etete was potential fraudulent and that the state oil company only received US$210m from the deal.  

A petition against the fraud has stated that the government is preparing charges of "conspiracy, bribery, official corruption and money-laundering" against Shell and Eni.

Criminal charges already have been filed against both companies and several executives in an Italian court in Milan. 

"This is historic. Generations of Nigerians have been robbed of life-saving services while oil men have grown rich at their expense," said Simon Taylor of the anti-corruption body Global Witness, according to the Independent. "Companies and their investors must understand they can no longer do backdoor deals with corrupt officials without paying a hefty price." 

The oil companies paid the US$1.2bn into a Nigerian government escrow account at the London branch of JPMorgan Chase, and former justice minister Mohammed Bello Adoke authorised its distribution.

The commission filed charges of fraud and money laundering in December 2016 against Etete, Adoke and businessman Aliyu Abubakar.

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