Royal Dutch Shell’s headquarters in the Netherlands was raided in February due to the company’s alleged shady oil dealings with Nigeria.
The world’s second largest oil producer’s office building in The Hague was raided Feb. 17 by 50 Italian officials because of a controversial oil deal in Nigeria, according to Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.
Prosecutors in Italy are investigating whether Shell is part of a $1.3 billion payment to purchase a Nigerian oil-rich field, called OPL 245, and if it constitutes as a bribe, a person linked to the case told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. Shell purchased the oil field in 2001, acquiring the license from Nigerian company Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd in the process.
Eni SpA, one of Italy’s largest oil and gas companies, also became ensnared in the incident.
The case was thrown into limbo after the Nigerian government rescinded Malabu’s license, kicking sole ownership of the oil field to Shell, prompting a wave of lawsuits over the course of several years. Malabu eventually struck a deal with the government, allowing the company to reacquire the license, leading Eni to invest in the plan.
Shell dropped its lawsuits against the Malabu ownership after the deal, and with Eni now in tow, the petroleum producer was able to get the oil license after forking over a $1.3 billion payment. Documents show the government transferred the bulk of the money to Malabu, while the prosecution believes most of the money went to pad the pockets of Nigerian officials.
Prosecutors in Italy placed Eni officials under investigation in 2014 for international corruption. Prosecutors are still trying to determine where the money went.
Environmental watchdog group Global Witness said it has been investigating the selling of the OPL 245 for several years. The group filed a complaint with the Milan Public Prosecutor in June 2015 showing alleged evidence of Shell’s role in the supposedly corrupt deal.
Global Witness claims it instead went directly to Nigeria’s former oil minister, Dan Etete.
“Shell and Eni have always denied knowledge of the corruption at the heart of this deal, but evidence we have published shows otherwise,” Simon Taylor, the director for Global Witness, said in a statement to the press.
He added: “The news of an investigation into Shell shows that their role played in this deal may backfire on them. Shell and Eni exposed their investors to massive risks and have been tainted by this theft from Nigerian citizens.”
Shell appeared ready to hunker down, readying itself for a lengthy legal battle.
“Shell is cooperating with the authorities and is looking into the allegations, which it takes seriously,” the company said in a press release Wednesday, without acknowledging any wrong doing on its part.
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