4 March 2019
The Netherlands sues Shell because of possible corruption in Nigeria – for 1.1 billion dollar kickbacks, part would have been collected by former president Goodluck Jonathan.
The corruption case revolves around the Nigerian oil field OPL 245. Shell and the Italian oil company Eni paid in 2011 jointly 1.3 billion dollars for the concessions for that field. Most of that money eventually ended up in the pockets of Nigerian politicians and senior officials.
According to a spokesperson for the Dutch court, ‘offences have been committed’ and there is ‘enough to prosecute’. The question is to what extent Shell and Eni were aware of this. In Italy, this deal is also the subject of a lawsuit. In Milan, two people have been sentenced to prison terms. In the Italian lawsuit, which has been going on for a year, sixteen Eni and Shell employees and former employees were also prosecuted. One of them is the British former Shell board member Malcolm Brinded.
The Italian prosecutor stated that 1.1 billion of the $1.3 billion paid for the concessions was illegal and has ended up with a Nigerian former oil minister, Dan Etete. Then the money would have been channelled to other Nigerian politicians, including former president Goodluck Jonathan. In September, an Italian and Nigerian were convicted behind closed doors. In that case, Shell has insisted so far that the company and its former employees can not be blamed.
NGOs happy with these steps
The Dutch Public Prosecution Service has been cooperating with the investigation of the Italian prosecutor since 2016. Three years ago, the FIOD (the Dutch anti-fraud agency) tax investigation service raided the head office of Shell in The Hague. Ben van Beurden, CEO of Shell, had his phone tapped by investigators.
The tapes leaked later. Van Beurden said, among other things, to the then financial director Simon Henry, according to him nothing clearly stressful was found. He also spoke about emails from Shell people who speculated who (from the revenue).
At the time of the acquisition of OPL 245 van Beurden was active in the chemical branch of Shell. In September 2017, four foreign NGOs filed a declaration in the Netherlands against Shell, van Beurden and three (former) directors. One of the NGOs, the British Global Witness, called the announcement on Friday ‘an encouraging signal that no company law stands’.
Shell itself filed a declaration
Almost a year ago, Shell itself filed a statement against former director Peter Robinson. The Australian would be, according to the group, guilty of corruption in Nigeria. Robinson is one of the four former Shell employees who stand trial in Milan. The Justice Department in the US and stock market watchdog SEC were also informed.
In that case it was about a different Nigerian oil field than the one that is subject of litigation in Milan, and now also in the Netherlands. That corruption case, from 2011, came after a police raid in Robinson’s house as a result of the investigation into OPL-245. Robinson has always denied the allegations of his former employer.
A version of this report first appeared in Belgian newspaper De Standaard.