Monday, August 3, 2020 5:25 pm
Eni has published on its website the documents of the judicial investigation into the acquisition of OPL245, in Nigeria, carrying out an in-depth fact-checking on all the main points of the ongoing trial at the Milan Tribunal. The company, reports a note, has decided this transparency initiative in the belief that the reading of the documents will allow to verify directly how Eni acted with absolute correctness and in full compliance with the law.
Through this initiative, the statement continues, Eni outlines, with broad documentary support, the key points of an affair in which international institutional bodies such as the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have recently closed their investigations without taking any action against the company. An operation against which accurate internal investigations carried out on several occasions by independent third parties had in the past confirmed the correctness of the operation.
The development of OPL245, it still reads, would have brought and would bring great economic and social benefits to the Nigerian people; Eni corresponded directly to the Nigerian Government a fair and reasonable consideration with respect to the characteristics of the concession, the contractual terms and the historical evolution of the local and international oil market; Eni was not required to know, nor knew, the destination of the funds paid to the Malabu company by the Nigerian Government, a payment authorized by the British anti-money laundering authorities; the allegations of bribes to Eni managers were denied by witnesses and experts in the courtroom, as well as by the Finance Guard itself in 2016; As part of the transaction, Eni complied with internal procedures, international best practices and implemented any industrial, economic and process verification. These are the key facts that Eni demonstrates in the dossier, with documentation and subpoena of supporting facts.
Eni reiterates the total alienation of its own and that of its management with respect to the trial charges, and trusts that the truth can be re-established as soon as possible by the Judicial Court.
Read the company’s publication in eni.com
The acquisition of Block 245 in Nigeria, our story- ENI
Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 covers a defined deep-water offshore area (over 1,000 m bsl), approximately 150 km off the Niger Delta.
OPL 245 does not grant the right to exploit any acreage, but provides an opportunity to explore the area. This activity required significant investments – amounting to several hundred million euros – and will require further investments worth billions over a number of years to come before having any chance to proceed with full-scale oil production activities. To date, not a single oil barrel has been drilled.
The acquisition of OPL 245 Block by Shell and Eni has been the subject of incorrect and speculative interpretations since 2011. In particular, there are at least seven incorrect aspects dealt with both by NGOs – which filed petitions with the Court and the Supervisory Authorities, and by certain news media. These interpretations are intended to contest Eni’s probity and transparency. Here below, we will demonstrate, through objective and documentary evidence, that Eni acted in full compliance with the law and the company procedures.
The legal process in Italy
At Eni’s request in 2014, the American law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP – specializing in anti-corruption matters – and an American forensic investigation company reviewed the procedure followed, the negotiations conducted, as well as the contract signed for the acquisition of OPL 245. Both investigations were completed in 2015 and confirmed the operation was legal.
However, in December 2017 five of Eni’s top managers, two of whom are no longer in charge, were committed for trial. The trial began on 5 May 2018 and is still in progress before the Court of Milan. At the hearing, the defence and Eni’s expert witnesses demonstrated that the company operated with fairness in its acquisition of OPL 245.
Here are the final steps of the legal proceedings before the Court of Milan:
30 January 2020: The prosecution case against Shell and Eni is substantially based on statements made by the defendant Vincenzo Armanna, a former Eni manager dismissed in 2013 following a dispute over expense claims. Armanna claimed that $50 million in kickbacks had been paid to Eni senior managers, as reported to him by Nigerian intelligence officer Victor Nwafor. Summoned as a witness in court, the latter flatly denied Armanna’s claim. Armanna then asked to call a “second Victor”, but the judges rejected his request. Supported by the public prosecutor, Armanna then returned to the fray with a “third Victor”, whom he identified as his true source. The Court heard this witness’s evidence on 30 January, 2020. However, the “third Victor” (whose real name is Isaac Eke) also denied Armanna’s claims. At the same hearing, it was also found that Armanna had lied about the number of passports available to him (he had three, not one, valid over the period concerned) for the purpose of making it difficult to trace his trips to Nigeria. Also at the hearing of 30 January, 2020, Salvatore Castilletti, the former head of the AISE [External Intelligence and Security Agency] in Abuja, cited by Armanna as a person informed about the facts, denied he had ever been aware of the OPL 245 operation.
6 February 2020: The Court rejected as irrelevant the Public Prosecutor’s in extremis attempt to summon Piero Amara, Eni’s former external legal affairs advisor, a prior offender and under investigation in another case. The prosecution had taken up Armanna’s allegations that Amara was able to provide information on purported attempts to influence the Court in the current proceedings.
22 May 2020: the High Court of Justice in London, UK, denied its jurisdiction over the OPL 245 case and rejected the lawsuit filed by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Italian courts therefore remained the sole authorities in charge of the claim.
Eni is now awaiting the Court’s verdict, on completion of the Public Prosecutor’s closing arguments, the plaintiffs’ statements, and the closing statements of the defence. Eni trusts that the truth will soon be established, not least because the prospecting licence for Block 245 expires in 2021 and the Nigerian Federal Government has not yet converted its prospecting licence into an oil mining lease (OLM). Not a single oil barrel has been drilled to date.
-Read the full report in eni.com