By Udeme Akpan
The companies were accused of corruption in the 2011 purchase of the $1.3 billion OPL 245, but in the judgment delivered, Wednesday, Judge Marco Tremolada, said that the companies and 13 defendants charged in the case had been acquitted.
In a statement issued in Abuja, the Federal Government, stated: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria is disappointed in today’s ruling in Milan, but thanks the Italian prosecuting authorities for their tireless efforts.”
The government, which said it would review the verdict and then consider an appeal, added that it, “will continue to hold those responsible for the OPL 245 fraud accountable.”
However, in separate responses to the judgment, the two companies said they are well pleased with it, adding that the judgment justifies their innocence in the alleged corruption case.
In its response to the judgment obtained by Vanguard, Shell, stated: “We welcome today’s decision by the Milan Tribunal. We have always maintained that the 2011 settlement was legal, designed to resolve a decade-long legal dispute and unlock the development of the OPL 245 block. At the same time, this has been a difficult learning experience for us. Shell is a company that operates with integrity and we work hard every day to ensure our actions not only follow the letter and spirit of the law, but also live up to society’s wider expectations of us.”
It explained that, “Background on the 2011 OPL 245 settlement (the Resolution Agreement). In 2011, Shell reached an agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria and Eni to settle litigation and arbitration dating back nearly a decade related to OPL 245. This was an unprecedented situation, where the Federal Government of Nigeria had separately allocated the same block to two different parties: Shell and Malabu.
“The 2011 Resolution Agreement, which was negotiated at the highest levels of the relevant government departments, aimed to resolve the long-standing disputes over the block and enable its development, generating economic activity and revenues that all parties would benefit from. Unfortunately, the block remains undeveloped.”
According to the company, “Business integrity is one of our core values. We continue to work hard to raise standards in this area, with an ongoing focus on embedding an ethical mindset and culture, as well as maintaining rigorous controls that we review and benchmark regularly. We recognize that society’s expectations of how we behave continue to grow and evolve and we need to respond.
“To help achieve this, we have increased resources over the past decade, quadrupling our anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) team, creating a dedicated internal screening team, and introducing regional subject-matter experts. We have also introduced a range of new initiatives, from a dedicated ABC Committee to a mandatory ethical leadership programme for all senior managers.
“We have developed a framework to help our staff make values-based, ethical judgments regarding significant business decisions. We asked a panel of independent experts to review this initiative and their recommendations are now being incorporated as this framework is rolled out and embedded internally.”
Similarly, Eni, stated: “In relation to the Nigeria-Opl245 trial, Eni welcomes today’s judgment of full acquittal of all charges, since there was no case, by the Court of Milan.
“After almost three years of trial, the judgment by the Court has finally established that the company, the CEO Claudio Descalzi, and the management involved in the proceedings have all behaved in a lawful and correct manner.
“Eni has throughout maintained its full confidence in the Court’s fair and balanced investigation.”
It added: “Today, Eni expresses its gratitude for the trust placed by its stakeholders throughout the course of the trial, particularly in upholding the company’s management and the conduct of its business, and respecting its reputation.”
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