Italian prosecutors have named former president Goodluck Jonathan and former minister of petroleum, Dieziani Alison-Madueke among those who allegedly received kickbacks in a controversial $1.3bn oil block deal involving oil giants ENI and Royal Dutch Shell.
Jonathan, who left office in May 2015, and Diezani, his long-time petroleum minister who was also the first woman president of OPEC are alleged to have played a central role in a deal, which saw ENI and Shell make a $1.3 billion payment in 2011 for an offshore oil block in Nigeria.
In court documents filed late last month in Milan, the prosecutors claimed that the Chief Executive of ENI, Claudio Descalzi, and his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni, met President Jonathan “in person” to thrash out the deal, which also involved former British intelligence agents working as advisors for Shell.
The prosecutors alleged that Jonathan and Diezani benefitted from a sum of $466m converted into naira and used part of it to bribe some Nigerian government officials to facilitate the alleged shady deal.
According to the court documents, ENI and Shell executives worked with Nigerian businessman Dan Etete, who was oil minister under the rule of General Sani Abacha from 1995 to 1998. Etete’s company Malabu was the “fraudulent holder” of the OPL 245 block.
After talks in Milan and Abuja, the block was bought illegally by the oil majors in contravention of domestic laws, “without competitive tendering” and with “full, unconditional exemption from all national taxes”, prosecutors said.
To facilitate the deal, a total of $801.5m was allegedly transferred to Etete’s Malabu accounts, out of which $466m was converted into naira and used for remunerating government officials, including Jonathan and Diezani. A further $54 million was withdrawn by one Abubakar Aliyu, whom prosecutors describe as an “agent” of Jonathan. However, ENI and Shell have both denied wrongdoing in the transaction.
Shell, in an email said, “We are aware of the investigation and we hope to show the prosecutor that there is no basis to prosecute Shell. Shell takes this matter seriously and is co-operating with the authorities.”
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had also recently pressed charges in connection with the same oil block deal.