A British court on Friday dismissed a $1billion bribery suit filed against oil giants— Royal Dutch Shell and Eni —by the Nigerian government.
The judge, Christopher Butcher, who delivered the ruling at a virtual hearing on Friday, ruled that England had no jurisdiction to try the case as it involves the same essential facts as a separate Italian criminal case.
The ruling is on the long-standing Malabu oil deal of 2011 for which a former Attorney –General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke and other former public officials are standing trial for alleged fraud.
However, the British court’s verdict is a victory for the oil companies, which have been clouded by accusations in a years-old dispute over exploration rights to a tract in the Gulf of Guinea called Oil Prospecting License 245 that has spread to courtrooms throughout Europe.
The Federal Government had claimed that money the companies paid to acquire the oil exploration licence in 2011 was diverted to bribes and kickbacks.
It said Shell and Eni are partly responsible for the behaviour of Nigerian officials who used a $1.1billion payment to acquire the oil block for personal enrichment.
But Shell and Eni had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
“We maintain that the 2011 settlement of long-standing legal disputes related to OPL 245 was a fully legal transaction with Eni and the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the most senior officials of the relevant ministries,” Shell said in a statement.
The Nigerian government had insisted that the Italian criminal case has a completely separate legal basis from the United Kingdom civil case and it would seek permission to appeal.
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