MILAN (Reuters) – Nigeria asked a Milan court on Wednesday to order Eni and Royal Dutch Shell to pay $1.092 billion as an immediate advance payment for damages it is claiming in one of the oil industry’s biggest-ever corruption trials.
At a hearing into alleged corruption linked to Eni and Shell’s 2011 acquisition of the OPL 245 field, Lucio Lucia, lawyer for the Nigerian government, called for a guilty verdict and an advance payment, ahead of any broader damages package set by a court at a later date.
Lucia did not specify how much Nigeria was seeking in damages overall but said the disputed deal had deprived Abuja of “profit oil”, adding “these are massive amounts”.
The lawyer said that calculated under two different scenarios, the profits that had been lost amounted to $4.5 billion and $5.9 billion respectively.
The long-running bribery case revolves around the purchase of the OPL 245 offshore field, some 150 km off the Niger Delta, for about $1.3 billion from Malabu, a company owned by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete.
Prosecutors allege that about $1.1 billion of that was siphoned off to politicians and middlemen, half of it to Etete himself.
Shell says the 2011 agreement was a settlement of long-standing litigation, following the previous allocation of the block by the Nigerian government to Shell and Malabu.
Etete, Eni, Shell and the managers accused in the Milan court case, including Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, have all denied any wrongdoing.
Eni said in a statement on Wednesday that the purchase price for OPL 245 was “congruous and reasonable” considering the value of the field and investment needed to bring it into production.
In July, prosecutors in the case asked for Eni and Shell to be fined and some of their present and former executives, including Eni’s Descalzi, to be jailed.
They also requested the confiscation of a total of $1.092 billion from all the defendants in the case, the equivalent of the bribes alleged to have been paid.
The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for Sept. 21, when the defence is due to present its case.
(Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)