AFRICANGLOBE – Italian prosecutors investigating Oil firm Eni SpA over the purchase of a Nigerian oil field three years ago allege that at least $533 million was paid to Nigerian officials and intermediaries who helped secure the sale, a Reuters report quoting official documents and a person close to the investigation, said.
According to the report, prosecutors have placed the Italian oil company, its former chief executive Paolo Scaroni and current CEO Claudio Descalzi under investigation for alleged international corruption over the deal for the OPL 245 offshore oil field concession.
Reuters also say it has seen a letter by Italian Prosecutors calling on the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to assist in freezing suspect assets but Eni and both managers, neither of whom have been charged, have denied any wrongdoing.
“In the letter, the Italian prosecutors alleged that Scaroni and Descalzi oversaw the payments to parties who helped secure the sale. In a second letter they alleged that some of the ultimate recipients of alleged bribes used the money to buy aircraft and armoured cars” the report said.
The London’s Southwark Crown Court had last month granted an order requested by the Italian Prosecutors to seize $85 million in assets belonging to Malabu Oil and Gas which the prosecutors say was involved in the sale.
Malabu Oil & Gas first purchased the OPL 245 block licence for a publicly-stated $20 million in 1998 during the rule of Nigeria’s military Head of State, Late Sani Abacha. The deal was however annulled by the civilian government of Olusegun Obasanjo that followed, before being reinstated in 2006 through a long drawn out legal battle.
Eni and Royal Dutch Shell, which is not under investigation, bought the rights to the OPL 245 offshore oil licence block from the Nigerian government in 2011. Oil production is expected to start in 2016 and is estimated to have up to 9.23 billion barrels of crude, approximately 24.8 percent of Nigeria’s total proven crude oil reserves.
An aide to Renzi told Reuters the case involving Eni, which is Italy’s biggest company by market capitalisation and the state’s biggest asset, was “not a big cause for concern at the moment.”