Italy’s Supreme Court Re­jects Ap­peal to Stop Shell, Eni’s Nige­rian Cor­rup­tion Trial

Trump re­news at­tack on OPEC over high oil price

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Ejio­for Alike with agency re­port

Italy’s Supreme Court threw out an ap­peal from Shell and four for­mer Shell man­agers to stop a trial on al­leged cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria, which also sees Eni’s chief fac­ing charges, le­gal sources said yes­ter­day.

The court’s de­ci­sion co­in­cided with a com­plaint by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on ris­ing price of oil, blam­ing the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Petroleum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries (OPEC) for the hike.

The long-run­ning graft case re­volves around the 2011 pur­chase by Eni and Shell of Nige­ria’s Oil Prospect­ing Lease (OPL) 245, and off­shore oil field, from Mal­abu Oil and Gas Lim­ited for about $1.3 bil­lion.

The trial kicked off last month, with the next hear­ing set for June 20.

Shell and Eni’s ap­peal was aimed at re­vers­ing the trial to the pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing stage as a re­sult of what it said were pro­ce­dural er­rors,

but the court de­cided the ap­peal was in­ad­mis­si­ble.

The for­mer Shell ex­ec­u­tives in­volved in the case had claimed a pro­ce­dural er­ror was made when the orig­i­nal rul­ing to send the case to court was taken and had ap­plied to Italy’s Supreme Court to void it.

The Supreme Court had fixed June 12 to de­liver judg­ment on the ap­peal.

Nine cur­rent and for­mer ex­ec­u­tives or con­trac­tors, in­clud­ing Eni Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, Clau­dio Descalzi, have been ac­cused by Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tors of pay­ing bribes to se­cure the li­cense to ex­plore OPL 245, which holds an es­ti­mated nine bil­lion bar­rels of oil but has never en­tered pro­duc­tion.

All the ac­cused, in­clud­ing Shell and Eni deny wrong­do­ing.

Reuters quoted a Shell spokes­woman as say­ing, “Based on our re­view of the Prose­cu­tor of Mi­lan’s file and all of the in­for­ma­tion and facts avail­able to us, we do not be­lieve that there is a ba­sis to con­vict Shell or any of its for­mer em­ploy­ees.”

The trial of top ex­ec­u­tives from oil ma­jors Eni and Shell over al­leged cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria, which kicked off last month with a brief pro­ce­dural hear­ing, was re-ad­journed till June 20.

At the next hear­ing, the Mi­lan court said it would as­sess re­quests from third par­ties, in­clud­ing a se­ries of in­ter­na­tional non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions, to join the case.

At last month’s hear­ing, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment, Domenico Car­toni Schit­tar, said he was step­ping down from his role.

In his com­ments in a signed doc­u­ment seen by Reuters, Car­toni Schit­tar said he had given up on a man­date, which he said had be­come “awk­ward.”

Global Wit­ness, a cam­paign group that has con­ducted its own in­ves­ti­ga­tions, has de­scribed the case as one of the big­gest cor­rup­tion scan­dals in the his­tory of the oil in­dus­try.

Descalzi and for­mer Shell Foun­da­tion Chair­man Mal­colm Brinded are stand­ing trial along with 11 other de­fen­dants and the two com­pa­nies.

In an­other devel­op­ment, Pres­i­dent Trump yes­ter­day said oil prices were too high and blamed OPEC, re­new­ing his at­tack even as prices fell yes­ter­day, amid ex­pec­ta­tion that the group may re­lax its out­put cuts later this month.

Oil prices have risen by around 60 per cent over the last year af­ter OPEC and some non-OPEC pro­duc­ers, in­clud­ing Rus­sia, started with­hold­ing out­put in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket in 2017, to re­duce ex­cess sup­ply.

Some coun­tries have al­ready in­creased pro­duc­tion, and an­a­lysts have said the out­look for the oil mar­ket for the rest of 2018 is un­cer­tain, as OPEC mem­bers pre­pare to meet June 22-23 in Vi­enna to dis­cuss out­put.

Reuters re­ported that in the United States, ris­ing petrol prices have threat­ened to blunt other eco­nomic head­winds.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, prices na­tion­wide have edged up to­ward $3 per gal­lon as the United States hits its peak sum­mer travel sea­son, still less than the $4 a gal­lon in 2008 dur­ing the 2007-2009 Great Re­ces­sion.

“Oil prices are too high; OPEC is at it again. Not good!” Trump wrote in a post on Twit­ter yes­ter­day, af­ter last rais­ing the is­sue in April.

THISDAY had re­ported that Trump had in April ac­cused OPEC of “keep­ing oil prices ar­ti­fi­cially very high.”

In a tweet, Trump had said the car­tel’s pric­ing cy­cle “will not be ac­cepted” as there is no scarcity of oil sup­ply to war­rant such “high prices.”

“Looks like OPEC is at it again. With record amounts of Oil all over the place, in­clud­ing the fully loaded ships at sea, Oil prices are ar­ti­fi­cially Very High! No good and will not be ac­cepted,” Trump re­port­edly tweeted.

But re­spond­ing from Jed­dah, Saudi Ara­bia, OPEC Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Mo­ham­mad Barkindo, had stated that the United States’ oil and gas in­dus­try was a ben­e­fi­ciary of the car­tel’s ef­forts to re­store sta­bil­ity in the oil mar­ket.

Barkindo said OPEC mem­bers were friends of the United States and had a vested in­ter­est in its growth and pros­per­ity.

OPEC had on Novem­ber 27, 2015 de­cided to pump as much oil as it could to to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket to de­fend its mar­ket share against US shale but the de­ci­sion sent the price of oil to an all-time low of $27 per bar­rel in Fe­bru­ary 2016, as a re­sult of ex­cess in­ven­tory in the mar­ket.

With the drop in oil price, OPEC and other ma­jor pro­duc­ers, in­clud­ing Rus­sia started to with­hold 1.8 mil­lion bar­rels per day out­put in 2017 to rein in over­sup­ply that had de­pressed prices since 2014 when the price peaked at $115 per bar­rel.

OPEC, to­gether with Rus­sia and a group of other pro­duc­ers, last Novem­ber ex­tended the out­put-cut­ting deal to cover all of 2018.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.