’Femi Asu with agency report
The trial of two oil giants, Eni and Shell, over bribery and corruption allegations in the purchase of an offshore oilfield in Nigeria, has been postponed till May 14.
The trial, which was scheduled to begin on Monday (yesterday), had been set to start in a Milan court. But the judge said that due to a high number of cases, it would be transferred to another chamber to avoid further delays, according to the AFP.
The oil majors are accused of corruption in the 2011 purchase of Oil Prospecting Licence 245, an offshore oil block in Nigeria estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude.
An Italian judge, Giusy Barbara, ruled in December that the companies, along with present and past executives, would face trial over a $1.1bn bribery scandal in Nigeria.
The OPL 245 oil block has been a source of contention for almost two decades.
In 1998, the block was awarded by a former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete, to Malabu Oil and Gas, which later sold it to Eni and Shell. The deal saw the Nigerian government act as an intermediary between the oil majors and Malabu Oil and Gas, a company allegedly controlled by Etete.
Milan prosecutors alleged that bribes were paid to win the licence to explore the field, which has never entered into production.
An international watchdog group, Global Witness, said on Friday that no company as large as Royal Dutch Shell or such senior executives of a major oil company had ever stood trial for bribery offences.
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