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Dutch investigators visit Shell over Malabu deal

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Royal Dutch Shell yesterday said Dutch investigators visited its headquarters in the Hague over an investigation into a the controversial Nigerian offshore oil field located in oil prospecting licence (OPL) 245 retrieved from Malabu Oil over allegations of fraud in award of the oil block, and later sold to Shell and Eni.

A Shell spokesman in Nigeria, Precious Okolobo,  confirmed that the firm’s headquarters was visited by investigators. He said: “We can confirm that representatives of the Dutch Financial Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) and the Dutch Public Prosecutor recently visited Shell at its headquarters in The Hague. The visit was related to OPL 245, an offshore block in Nigeria that was the subject of a series of long-standing disputes with the Federal Government of Nigeria. Shell is cooperating with the authorities and is looking into the allegations, which it takes seriously.

“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. All employees are expected to uphold these principles and failure to do so will result in consequences up to and including dismissal.”

Also, Italian prosecutors are reportedly investigating Royal Dutch Shell over allegations of international corruption in relation to a big Nigeria oil deal that also involved Italian oil giant, Eni.

Milan prosecutors opened a corruption probe into Eni in 2014 in a case relating to a $1.3 billion acquisition of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oil block in 2011 by the Italian company and Shell.

They later placed under investigation Eni’s Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi and another top manager at the company. The probe has now been widened to Shell, the source said, confirming a report in an Italian daily, Corriere della Sera.

“We can confirm we have received notice of proceedings from the Public Prosecutor in Italy,” a Shell spokesman said.

The controversial oil block said to hold about nine billion barrels of oil was alleged to have been fraudulently sold to Malabu Oil for a paltry sum by Dan Etete who was the Minister of Petroleum between March 1995 and 1998.

Malabu Oil is alleged to belong to Etete and the late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha. The oil block was awarded Malabu two weeks before Abacha died. Until today, it was said that lawyers representing Malabu in the forfeiture of $83 million oil deal in British Courts were representing Etete, though he refuted and claimed to be a consultant to Malabu.

In 2001, former President Olusegun Obasanjo cancelled the Malabu licence on the basis that the allocation was inappropriate, and the ownership reverted to the Federal Government.

In 2011, the Federal Government under former President Goodluck Jonathan sold the oil block to Shell and Eni for $1.1billion and another $207million as signature bonus. Reportedly, few days after about 90 per cent of the payment was made to Nigeria’s JP Morgan London account, the Federal Government transferred the payment to Malabu’s account and thereafter over $500million was wired to companies owned by a certain Aliyu Abubakar.

The Italian prosecutor at the British Court reportedly claimed they have a wire tap that confirmed Abubakar was a front for former President Jonathan, code named “Fortunato”.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) headed by Mohammed Diri, had a committee, which included lawyers from his office that looked into the case. The committee called for the cancellation of the “settlement agreement” that ceded the oil block to Shell and Eni.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will advise the Federal Government on the committee’s recommendations and should President Muhammadu Buhari approve the recommendations, Shell and Eni will lose the oil block.

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