An Italian court has postponed to May 14 the trial of Royal Dutch Shell and Eni executives over alleged corruption in Nigeria.
The trial was originally expected to start in a Milan court on Monday but the judge said due to a high number of cases, it would be transferred to another chamber to avoid further delays.
The trial will now begin on May 14.
The case involves the 2011 purchase by Eni and Shell of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oilfield – one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks – for about $1.3 billion.
Eni — also charged with corruption in Algeria in a separate trial — and Shell stand accused of handing out bribes during the 2011 purchase of OPL245, an offshore oil block estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude, for $1.3 billion (1.06 billion euros).
Prosecutors said bribes were paid to win the licence to explore the field, which has never entered into production.
‘SHOW OF SHAME’
Meanwhile, Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), one of the activist groups that sparked off the trial, has said it was shocked and deeply disturbed by the “confused appearance” of the federal government in court on Monday.
In a statement by Olanrewaju Suraju, its chairman, HEDA said “while we applaud the action of the Federal Government to intervene in the case, the presence of two lawyers with contradictory instructions was an embarrassment and presents Nigeria in a poor light before the Milan Court”.
“We were further shocked that one of these lawyers, Mr Sedu, declared his intention not to ask for damages from Eni,” Suraju said.
“There is now a very real risk that both instructed lawyers will not be recognized by the court, leaving the FRN out in the cold.
“Powers of Attorney to represent Nigeria should not be handed out like confetti. The Attorney General must explain why he has so disastrously mismanaged Nigeria’s intervention, potentially losing the chances of recovering billions of dollars in compensation to Nigeria.
“HEDA is calling on the President of Nigeria, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, call his Attorney General to order, considering the what happened today in Milan and adversary actions of the AGF in the recent past.”