Prankken d’Oliveira, a group of Amsterdam-based lawyers, on Tuesday, submitted a criminal complaint against Shell and some of the company’s former directors in relation to Shell’s dodgy acquisition of the exploitation rights to the Nigerian oil block, OPL245, from Malabu Oil and Gas, a Nigerian shell company suspected to have been illegally awarded the licence to Mr. Dan Etete, while he was Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister. This was disclosed in a statement issued by the lawyers on Tuesday.
Shell, along with Italian oil multinational, Eni S.p.A, acquired the rights to the block in 2011. According to the statement, the criminal complaint was filed on behalf of Prakken d’Oliveira’s clients, Corner House (UK), Global Witness (UK), HEDA Resource Centre (Nigeria) and Re: Common (Italy)-all non-governmental organizations.
The complaint was submitted on 19 September by Mr. Göran Sluiter and Barbara van Straaten, both lawyers with Prakken d’Oliveira.
The statement added that no announcement was made at the time in order to give the Dutch Public Prosecutors’ Office a chance to study the complaint.
But following responses by Dutch Minister, Kaag, on 27 November, to questions raised by the country’s lawmakers after a publication in Vrij Nederland on the OPL245 case1, Prakken d’Oliveira’s clients were convinced that there was no longer any need to keep the criminal complaint confidential.
Specifically, the criminal complaint is aimed 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 complaint wants the Public Prosecutor to investigate those named for offenses under Dutch law relating to foreign corruption, deceit, membership of a criminal organization, complicity in money-laundering and acting in violation of disclosure obligations in relation to insider trading knowledge.
Shell has denied any wrongdoing in the deal, which was recently described by the Nigerian government in pleadings to the UK High Court as “corrupt” and “a conspiracy to injure by unlawful means by depriving the (Nigeria) of monies for the grant of OPL245 to which it was lawfully and exclusively entitled”
Shell and Eni paid approximately $1.3 billion to the Nigerian government, which subsequently transferred $800 million of the sum 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’. 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 statement recalled.
It equally recalled that the Italian magistrate alleged that monies were intended for the remuneration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and other members of his administration.
The decision on whether or not the Italian prosecution will be followed up and against which suspects is expected to be made at the end of December.
Prakken d’Oliveira’s clients, however, believe that irrespective of the scope of the Italian criminal case, there are enough grounds to also press charges against Shell and its former directors in The Netherlands. The Dutch investigation, the statement noted, will focus on different facts and suspects, adding that there are strong leads in The Netherlands for a criminal investigation directed against Shell.