Italian prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a legal challenge over the acquittal of Eni and Shell, as well as managers including Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, in a corruption case linked to a deal in Nigeria.
Attorney General Celestina Gravina signalled the prosecution did not plan to pursue the case at the start of the appeal trial into the oil industry’s biggest corruption case involving the $1.3 billion acquisition of a Nigerian oilfield a decade ago.
The Appeal Court formally took note of the decision, meaning the criminal case will be closed and the acquittal of all defendants will become final. The appeal will now only concern civil proceedings, as Nigeria has sued for compensation.
While the General Prosecutor’s Office at the Appeals Court sometimes asks for the acquittal of defendants at the end of an appeal process, legal and judicial sources interviewed by Reuters say that the decision to withdraw at the start of a trial is unprecedented in Milan.
“This case must finish today because it has no basis, in fact it should have finished earlier,” Gravina told the court.
The Tribunal Prosecutor’s Office, which is a separate body, and the Nigerian government had sought to appeal a March 2021 ruling acquitting the two companies and defendants.
The next hearings for the civil case are scheduled for September.
Last November the Attorney General’s Office decided not to refer to the Supreme Court an appeal acquittal of two consultants in a separate case related to the Nigeria graft trial.
The main case revolved around a deal in which Eni and Shell acquired the OPL 245 offshore oilfield in 2011 to settle a long-standing dispute over ownership.
Prosecutors alleged that just under $1.1 billion of the total amount was siphoned off to politicians and middlemen.
The First Instance Court in Milan said in March 2021 there was no case to answer and acquitted the companies and all other defendants.