Judge’s reasons for convicting ENI and Shell middlemen could help Nigeria’s case

A judge in Italy have highlighted the reasons behind her decision to convict Mr Emeka Obi and Gianluca Di Nardo, both of whom were middlemen to Royal Dutch Shell and ENI during the controversial OPL 245 oilfield deal.

Judge Giusy Barbara made her comment yesterday, months after she convicted the men and sentenced both of them to four years in prison for the role they played in the shady deal.

According to her, her conviction is based on the fact that both companies and their representatives were fully aware that the 2011 transaction would result in bribe money being paid.

“The management of oil companies Eni and Shell were fully aware of the fact that part of the $1.092 billion paid would have been used to compensate Nigerian public officials who had a role in this matter and who were circling their prey like hungry sharks,”  Guisy Barbara said in her reason.

“It was not mere connivance, but a conscious adhesion to a predatory project damaging the Nigerian state.”

While the middlemen were tried separately from ENI and Shell and found guilty, the trial involving the companies are expected to drag on for months.

Recall that in 2011, ENI and Shell jointly acquired the OPL 245 oilfield for $1.3 billion. Since the acquisition happened, the deal has been shrouded in controversies, with many allegations of corruption levelled against the companies. Shell and ENI have been accused of paying bribes to Nigerian officials to the tune of $1.1 billion.

This could help Nigeria’s new case against the companies

Last week, the Federal Government of Nigeria instituted a $1.1 billion legal action against Shell and ENI in a London commercial court.

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The suit is in line with the corruption allegations levelled against them as regards the acquisition. Seeing, therefore, as Judge Giusy Barbara have come forward with her statement, Nigeria’s prosecution team have more points to argue with.

Meanwhile, ENI and Shell keeps denying everything

Both companies have always denied their involvement in any type of shadiness in the OPL 245 deal. According to their latest denial on Monday by Shell, neither Emeka Obi nor Gianluca Di Nardo worked for them. As such, there is no basis to hold them accountable for any offences committed by those men.

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