Giusy Barbara, an Italian judge, says oil giants Eni and Shell were fully aware that their 2011 purchase of OPL 245 would be embroiled in corruption.
According to Reuters, the judge made the comment on Monday, backed by evidence which she said led to the conviction of Emeka Obi, a Nigerian and Gianluca Di Nardo, an Italian, in September.
Both were said to be middlemen in the controversial OPL 245 deal.
“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,” the judge said in her reasoning.
Eni and Shell bought the OPL 245 offshore field for about $1.3 billion in what is perhaps one of the largest corruption scandals.
It is alleged that about $1.1 billion of the total was siphoned to agents and middlemen.
On Wednesday, the federal government filed a lawsuit against the oil companies in London to the tune of $1.1 billion.
While Eni said it would analyse Giusy’s comments, a Shell spokesperson has distanced the company from the middlemen convicted and other corruption allegations.
“Neither Emeka Obi nor Gianluca di Nardo worked on behalf of Shell and we were not a party to their fast-track trial. We are reviewing the written decision of the fast track trial judge, so it would not be appropriate to comment on the detail at this stage,” a statement by Shell read.
“Based on our review of the Prosecutor of Milan’s file and all of the information and facts available to us, we do not believe that there is a basis to convict Shell or any of its former employees of alleged offences related to Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 in Nigeria.
“Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity. It’s one of our core values and is a central tenet of the Business Principles that govern the way we do business.
“Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our Code of Conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”