Nigeria loses $1bn in law suit against Shell, Eni in the UK

A court in the United Kingdom has dismissed a $1bn bribery suit instituted against oil giants – Royal Dutch Shell and Eni by – the Federal Government of Nigeria, Bloomberg reports.

The judgement was delivered by, Christopher Butcher at a virtual hearing on Friday, putting to rest the long-standing trial on the Malabu oil deal of 2011.

The Christopher Butcher ruled that no English Court had the jurisdiction to try the case since it involves the same essential facts as a separate Italian criminal case.

The ruling connotes victory for the oil companies involved in the case, which have been clouded by accusations in a years-old dispute over exploration rights to a tract in the Gulf of Guinea called Oil Prospecting License 245 that has spread to courtrooms throughout Europe.

The Nigerian government accused the companies of diverting the monies that were paid for the acquisition of the oil exploration licence in 2011 to bribes and kickbacks.

It says Shell and Eni are partly responsible for the behaviour of Nigerian officials who used a $1.1bn payment to acquire the oil block for personal enrichment. Shell and Eni have denied any wrongdoing.

“We maintain that the 2011 settlement of long-standing legal disputes related to OPL 245 was a fully legal transaction with Eni and the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the most senior officials of the relevant ministries,” Shell said in a statement.

The Nigerian government said in its own statement that the Italian criminal case has a completely separate legal basis from the UK civil case and it would seek permission to appeal.

Eni reportedly declined to comment on the matter.

The ruling does not affect ongoing Italian criminal proceedings, where Nigeria has a separate legal claim.

The Malabu scam, described as one of the most fraudulent oil deals in the world, involved the payment of $1.1bn by oil giants, Shell and Eni, to the Federal Government accounts in 2011 for OPL 245, said to hold reserves of about 9.23 billion barrels of oil.

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