Royal Dutch Shell has accused the Nigerian government of hiding key reports of investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which concluded that there was no fraud in the sale of OPL 245.
Shell and ENI, which paid $1.3 billion to take full ownership of the lucrative oil block from Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd in 2011, are fighting a $1 billion suit brought against them by the Nigerian government at the English high court in London.
Nigeria is accusing the multinational oil companies — whose officials are also undergoing trial in Milan, Italy, over the OPL 245 affair — of corruption and also seeking to cancel the award of the oil block.
Two EFCC investigations into the deal in 2012 reportedly concluded that there was no corruption in the transaction.
At the three-day virtual hearing from Tuesday to Thursday, whose proceedings were live-tweeted by Barnaby Pace, a British investigative journalist and campaigner for Global Witness, the lawyers of Shell and ENI asked the court to stop the $1 billion lawsuit because of a similar trial in Milan.
Under article 30 of the European Union, the case in England, which is the second, should be stayed until the final determination of the one in Italy.
Lord Goldsmith, the Shell lawyer, said Nigeria’s presentation to the London court is “positively and seriously misleading”, countering the claim of the country’s lawyers that the money laundering aspect of the case only became evident with the trial in Milan.
Shell is alleging that Nigeria failed to give Sara Cockerill, the judge, “full and frank disclosure” when she was asked to give them permission to serve out of jurisdiction.
However, Roger Masefield, appearing for Nigeria, argued that the evidence from the Italian investigation was different from the probe by EFCC in 2012.
According to him, the probe was into Malabu shareholder dispute involving Mohammed Abacha and Don Etete and not allegations of money laundering.
Masefield said it was when the Milan trial started that “credible evidence” emerged on bribe payments to Nigerian politicians.
However, Goldsmith said the Nigerian government already knew about the allegations in Italy when it filed the case in London. Cockerill has reserved judgment on whether or not to proceed with the hearing.