Royal Dutch Shell is to be prosecuted in the Netherlands over alleged corruption in a US$1.3 billion Nigerian oil deal, a case already standing trial in Italy.
Shell announced on Friday that the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office is preparing to prosecute “for criminal charges directly or indirectly related” to the deal.
In 2011, Shell and Italian energy giant Eni, paid $1.3 billion to the Nigerian government who acted as a negotiator for the sale of an Atlantic oil field known as OPL 245. The government passed on $1.1 billion to the previous owner, Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, a shell company in which former oil minister Dan Etete held a substantial stake.
Prosecutors in Milan claim Etete used this money to pay out tens of millions of dollars in bribes to influential middlemen including Nigerian government officials.
Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and four ex-Shell managers are accused of knowing that the payments would be pocketed by individuals rather than the Nigerian government.
The Dutch prosecutor’s office said in a statement that they “concluded there are prosecutable offenses,” based on the investigation into Shell so far. Inquiries are continuing however, with no decision yet made on what action will follow.
Barnaby Pace, an anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness, previously told the Independent that the trial could be a turning point for the oil industry.
“Some of the most senior executives of two of the biggest companies in the world could face prison sentences for a deal struck under their watch,” he said.
In September, a Milan judge convicted two middlemen, Emeka Obi and Gianluca Di Nardo, in the case’s first ruling.
Shell and Eni both deny any wrongdoing.
Both companies are also in court in London, where the Nigerian government is suing for more than $1 billion in an attempt to reclaim the money it says belongs to the Nigerian people.
A report from Global Witness in November said the country stands to lose $6 billion in oil revenue, enough to fund the country’s health and education budget for two years.