Criminal complaint against Shell on account of corruption

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PRESS RELEASE – 5 december 2017

Criminal complaint submitted against Shell over OPL 245 deal

Prakken d’Oliveira announced today that it has submitted a criminal complaint against Shell and some of its former directors in relation to Shell’s acquisition of the Nigerian oil block known as OPL 245. Shell acquired the rights to the block in 2011, together with the Italian oil multinational Eni S.p.A.

The complaint is filed on behalf of Prakken d’Oliveira’s clients, the non-governmental organisations Corner House (UK), Global Witness (UK), HEDA Resource Centre (Nigeria) and Re:Common (Italy).

The complaint was submitted on 19 September 2017 by Prakken d’Oliveira lawyers Göran Sluiter and Barbara van Straaten. No announcement was made at the time in order to give the Dutch Public Prosecutors’ Office a chance to study the complaint.

However, in the light of the responses by Dutch Minister Kaag last Monday 27 November to questions raised by Dutch MPs following a publication in Vrij Nederland on the OPL245 case[1], Prakken d’Oliveira’s clients feel that there is no longer any reason to keep the criminal complaint confidential.

The criminal complaint relates to Shell’s involvement in the 2011 acquisition of the exploitation rights to the Nigerian oil block OPL245 from Malabu Oil & Gas, a Nigerian shell company which is suspected to have been illegally awarded the license by its beneficial owner Dan Etete when he was oil Minister.

More specifically, the criminal complaint is directed at Royal Dutch Shell plc, Shell Petroleum N.V., and former or current directors Peter Voser, German Burmeister, Simon Henry and Ben van Beurden.

The criminal complaint requests that the Public Prosecutor investigate those named for offences under Dutch law relating to foreign corruption (buitenlandse corruptie), deceit (bedrog), membership of a criminal organisation (deelneming aan een criminele organisatie), complicity in money-laundering (medeplichtigheid aan witwassen) and acting in violation of disclosure obligations in relation to insider trading knowledge (handelen in strijd met verplichting openbaarmaking voorwetenschap).

Shell has denied any wrong doing associated with the deal, which has been described recently by the Federal Republic of Nigeria in pleadings to the UK High Court as “corrupt[2] and “a conspiracy to injure [Nigeria] by unlawful means by depriving the [FRN] of monies for the grant of OPL245 to which it was lawfully and exclusively entitled.”[3]

Shell and Eni jointly paid a sum of approximately $1.3 billion to the Nigerian government, who then transferred some $800 million of that money to Malabu. Only $210 million was deposited in the Nigerian Treasury. The monies paid to Malabu were rapidly dispersed to a number of shell companies.

The Milan Magistrate, who is seeking to prosecute Shell, Eni and some of the companies’ officials over the OPL 245 deal, has stated that the payments were for “the apparent purpose of bribery”.[4]

The Milan indictment specifically alleges that money from the deal has been traced to Bayo Ojo SAN, who was the Attorney General when OPL 245 was unlawfully re-awarded to Malabu in 2006. The Italian magistrate has also alleged that monies were intended for “the remuneration of President Goodluck Jonathan and other members of the Nigerian government in office at the time”.[5]

The decision on whether the Italian prosecution will be pursued – and if so, against which suspects – is expected at the end of December.

Irrespective of the progress and scope of the Italian criminal case, Prakken d’Oliveira’s clients believe there are sufficient grounds to also press charges against Shell and its named directors in The Netherlands. The Dutch investigation would focus on different facts and suspects. Furthermore, there are strong leads in The Netherlands for a criminal investigation directed against Shell.

For more information and background of this case, please see Shell Knew.

For more information on the complaint, please contact: gsluiter@prakkendoliveira.nl or bvanstraaten@prakkendoliveira.nl.


[1] Harm Botje, Shell in het nauw: corrupte constructies, Vrij Nederland, via: https://www.vn.nl/shell-oliedeal/

[2] Federal Republic of Nigeria v Malabu Oil and Gas, Statement of Claim, High Court of Justice, Admirality and Commercial Court, London, 18 October 2016, para 4.

[3] Federal Republic of Nigeria v Malabu Oil and Gas, Statement of Claim, High Court of Justice, Admirality and Commercial Court, London, 18 October 2016, para 29.

[4] De Pasquale, Witness Statement. In the Matter of Eni Spa. Et al. and In the Matter of the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act 1990 (Enforcement of Overseas Forfeiture Orders) Order 2005, Crown Court Sitting at Southwark, 4 September 2014, para 12.

[5] Public Prosecution Office at the Ordinary Court of Milan, Notification of completion of preliminary investigations Art. 415-bis of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure, p.7.

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