Human Rights Groups, Global Witness, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, have urged the Nigerian public prosecutor to appeal the judgement of the Milan Tribunal which acquitted Eni, Shell and others for international corruption related to the acquisition of the OPL 245 oil field in Nigeria.
In a statement on Wednesday, spokesperson for the campaign groups noted that the judges have set a terrible precedent for the global fight against corruption involving fossil fuel companies.
It stated that the judges in the Milan Tribunal, on Wednesday, released the full judgment in the criminal trial acquitting all the defendants and stating that they had no case to answer.
According to the judgement, since it was a criminal trial, proof beyond reasonable doubt was required for a conviction.
The judges ruled that even ”proof of the unlawful payment or the unlawfulness of the act are not considered sufficient, even jointly, to constitute proof of the offence of domestic or international bribery”.
The judges stated that a demonstration of the agreement between the parties on corruption was required. In the judges’ view, no evidence of such an express agreement was found.
However, in their full judgment, the judges expressed concerns about the movement of nearly half a billion dollars into cash from the deal.
They noted, “The amount of untraceable money, moved in the manner described is circumstantial proof of the generically illicit nature of the payments derived from the proceeds of OPL 245, it is not, however, possible to agree with the conclusive assumption that a large part of that sum cash - if not all of it - ended up in the hands of the Nigerian public officials who made possible the illicit agreements on OPL 245.”
The judges found that the money from the OPL 245 deal went to Dan Etete, a former oil minister who while in office awarded the block to Malabu, a company he controlled.
The judges also ruled that Nigeria’s former Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke did receive money from the OPL 245 deal.
However, the judges ruled that the money may have represented payment of a prior debt owed by Etete and that there was no evidence of a corrupt agreement.
Adoke denied wrongdoing and says the payment was part of a property transaction with Abubakar Aliyu, who has also denied wrongdoing, neither were defendants in the Milan trial.
The groups said they would be examining the judgement closely to see how it aligns with international anti-corruption standards.
Commenting on the judgment, a spokesperson for campaign groups Global Witness, HEDA, Re: Common and Corner House said: "The judgment lays bare the stinking carcass of the OPL 245 deal. Many will be mystified by the conclusions drawn by the judges. The bar they have set for a conviction for international corruption is impossibly high - presenting companies with a 'get out of jail free' card. We urge the public prosecutor to appeal this judgment, which, if allowed to stand, creates a terrible precedent for the global fight against corruption and the ability to hold fossil fuel companies to account.”