Dutch firm wants lawsuit against Shell over Nigeria deal

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•‘Shell hasn’t left Delta’

’Femi Asu and Theophilus Onojeghen

A Dutch law firm has asked the public prosecutor in the Netherlands to file a lawsuit against the Royal Dutch Shell, its chief executive officer and former executives over alleged criminal actions relating to a 2011 oilfield purchase in Nigeria.

The Dutch authorities are already investigating the oilfield deal, alongside Italian prosecutors, who want to take Shell and Italy’s Eni to trial over alleged corruption on the same oilfield. Shell and Eni have denied any wrongdoing.

Shell said on Tuesday it did not believe there was any basis to prosecute the company or any current or former employee.

A law firm specialising in human rights cases, Prakken d‘Oliveira, filed its request in September on behalf of Global Witness and other clients, asking the prosecutor to charge Shell, as well as its CEO, Ben van Beurden; a former CEO, Peter Voser, and a former Chief Financial Officer, Simon Henry.

A lawyer at Prakken d‘Oliveira, Barbara van Straaten, said the request would push the Dutch prosecutor’s office to say if they intended to move forward with criminal charges.

A watchdog group, Global Witness, has published several reports on the 2011 deal in which Shell and Eni secured Oil Prospecting Licence 245. At the time, Nigeria’s oil minister was Dan Etete.

The group and others say much of the $1.3bn paid for the block did not go to the state but instead went to Etete, who has since been convicted of money laundering, and to Malabu Oil and Gas, a firm that previously held the rights.

Shell said earlier this year it knew the Nigerian government would compensate Malabu using some of the money, but said the transaction was fully legal.

An Italian judge is expected to decide on December 20 whether to try Eni and Shell for alleged corruption in the deal.

Milan prosecutors have asked for the two firms, as well as some past and present managers from the companies, including the current Eni CEO, Claudio Descalzi, to be indicted.

A Dutch anti-fraud team raided the Shell’s headquarters in The Hague in 2016 as part of its investigation.

A Nigerian court ordered the oil block temporarily seized in January at the request of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, but the move was later overturned.

The OPL 245, believed to be the largest in Africa, was said to have been fraudulently acquired from the Federal Government by Malabu Oil and Gas Limited in 1998.

The oil block, which was awarded by Etete to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company in which he was a shareholder, was sold to Shell and Eni in what has been described as a shady transaction.

Meanwhile, Shell Petroleum Development Company on Wednesday debunked reports that the oil giant had exited its Delta operational base particularly the Warri area of Delta State.

The SPDC’s General Manager, External Relations, Mr. Igo Weli, made the clarification during the inauguration of a 400-sitting capacity town hall built for Ogunu Community, Agbarha-Warri Kingdom, in the Warri South Council Area of the state.

Weli, while describing the widespread reports as erroneous, noted that although the company had divested its assets in the Delta operation, Ogunu, where its headquarters was formerly located, was still operational for business.

He said, “The erroneous assumption that Shell has left Delta State stemmed from equating the divestment of oil fields on land area and related assets in the state to total shutdown of operations in all of Delta State.

“There is no better way to correct this error than being here to inaugurate a modern town hall for our host community, Ogunu. Despite the divestment of large assets in Delta, Ogunu retains relevance as essential logistic base for the SPDC operations in swamp, shallow water and further afield.

“The relationship between the SPDC and Ogunu community spans several decades of cordial interaction. A direct result of this relationship is the number of contractors from the community rendering various services within the SPDC operation. Most of these contractors have since grown their capacity for service in the industry and beyond.”

In his remarks, the Ogunu Community Chairman, Mr. Hope Esharegharan, appealed to the SPDC management to fully return to its Warri base, adding that the people of the state were ready to provide the right environment for the company to thrive.

While thanking Shell for the numerous projects it had sited in the community, Esharegharan said, “The town hall project conceived since 2011 will be significant for the community in terms of its income generation appeal and the ambience it gives for promoting gainful deliberations on moving Ogunu forward.”

Meanwhile, Shell has inaugurated a Professorial Chair in Light Weight Automobile Engineering Department at the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, in the Uvwie Council Area of the state, with a vow to assist the growth of the automobile industry in the country.

Weli, who also spoke at the event, said the SPDC was championing the growth of automobile industry through the development indigenous manpower that would work in the sector in future.

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