Eni’s activities and projects exploring for oil in South Africa need investigation. Its history in Africa is tainted, writes Dennis Morton.
The Italian oil company has claimed that developing offshore territory in KwaZulu-Natal and creating sustainable value was critical to the region’s success.
But Eni used similar social responsibility arguments to get a foothold in Nigeria, Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo — before securing exploration concessions allegedly through bribery and corruption.
In Nigeria, it allegedly paid $1.3 billion in bribes for an oil block off the coast of Nigeria, named OPL 245.
The money for the exploration concession was paid to convicted money launderer and former oil Minister, Dan Etete, who had awarded himself ownership of the block in 1998 through a company he secretly owned, Malabu Oil and Gas.
This was revealed by activist groups Global Witness and Finance Uncovered in April 2018, and published in their report, “Shell Knew. The report reveals a series of emails that the groups say show knowledge at the highest levels that Shell and Eni’s $1.1 billion payment for OPL 245 would go to convicted money launderer Dan Etete, and that this money would flow onwards as bribes.
This alleged corruption was reported to the Italian authorities, and in September 2018 Eni’s chief executive Claudio Descalzi and former Royal Dutch Shell executive director for Upstream, Malcolm Brinded CBE, were summoned.
The case, brought by the Milan Public Prosecutor, alleged that $520 million from the corrupt deal was converted into cash and paid to the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and other Nigerian government officials.
The prosecutors further alleged that the remainder of the $1.1 billion was channelled to Eni and Shell executives, with $50 million in cash delivered to the home of Eni’s then head of African Operations Roberto Casula.
The defendants, Eni’s current head Descalzi, his predecessor Paolo Scaroni, as well as other executives and executives of Shell and the Italian group, as well as Nigerian ex-minister of oil, Dan Etete, allegedly used middlemen Emeka Obi and Gianluca Di Nardo to orchestrate the deal.
Obi and Di Nardo have been sentenced to four years on charges of international corruption.
In Algeria, Scaroni, Eni and subsidiary Saipem went on trial three years ago over payments of 197 million euros ($230 million) to Algerian officials between 2007 and 2010 to win energy contracts.
The payments helped Saipem win contracts worth 8 billion euros, and the court fined the subsidiary 400,000 euros and jailed former boss Pietro Tali for four years and nine months.
In September 2018 the court ordered 197 million euros be seized from Saipem. Prosecutor Isidoro Palma called for Eni and Saipem to be fined 900,000 euros and for Scaroni and Tali to be jailed for six years and four months.
The court found, however that Scaroni could not be held responsible for Saipem’s actions.
Prosecutors said that bribes were paid to officials at Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach, where several top executives including the president have resigned over the scandal.
The bribes allegedly allowed Eni to acquire gas exploitation rights at the Menzel field through former Algerian energy minister Chakib Khelil. Saipem’s former boss in Algeria, Pietro Varone, was also jailed for four years and nine months, while Saipem’s former chief financial officer Alessandro Bernini was jailed for four years and a month.
Three Algerians, who were tried in absentia, received sentences of up to five years and five months.
Eni said in a statement that it was “satisfied with the acquittal”.
Rumble in the jungle
In April 2018, Reuters reported that Italian authorities investigated Eni’s suspected corruption in Republic of Congo over payment of suspected bribes when oil licences in Congo-Brazzaville were being renewed.
Eni confirmed that the Milan prosecutor’s office requested “documents related to certain activities in the Congo in 2009 and 2014″.
The request follows two others received in 2017,” its spokesman said, adding that the firm had already handed over the documents and was innocent of any misconduct.
Eni also confirmed that the offices of two Eni officials had been searched.
Italian media reported that Eni agreed to include in its contracts — worth €350 million — Congolese companies identified by the country’s government, including the Africa Oil and Gas Corporation run by Denis Gokana, oil advisor to Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso.
In addition to Eni as a corporation, five individuals are being investigated, including two Eni executives: head of development operations and technology Roberto Casula and director Maria Paduano. — Roving Reporters
Roving Reporters asked Eni to comment further on this article.
The company in a statement said:
”Eni reiterates the correctness of its actions in the purchase of OPL 245 in Nigeria, and that it negotiated and concluded the transaction directly with the Nigerian government.
“The company confirms its total trust in the work of the judges of the hearing that is taking place at the seventh section of the same court.
“Eni believes that a complete and exhaustive reconstruction of the facts will be carried out in that *(Milan) court, while the judge of the abbreviated rite *(earlier case that led to the the conviction of Emeka and Di Nardo) could only use the acquisitions of the public prosecutor.
“Eni is confident that this reconstruction will definitively clear the company of any responsibility in any corruption hypothesis.
An Eni press officer, Cioni Anna Marilia, informed Roving Reporters that the company “does not operate in the Democratic Republic of Congo”.
She also referred Roving Reporters to a paper it had published on the history of Block OPL 245 in Nigeria and the company’s position on the matter.
* Roving Reporters’ parentheses.
Roving Reporters asked Shell to comment on this article.
A Shell spokesperson stressed that they could not comment on allegations against Eni or others, but said the following:
“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.
“If the evidence ultimately proves that improper payments were made by Malabu or others to then current government officials in exchange for improper conduct relating to the 2011 settlement of the long standing legal disputes, it is Shell’s position that none of those payments were made with its knowledge, authorisation or on its behalf.
“We believe the trial judges in Italy will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees.
“Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity. It’s one of our core values and is a central tenet of the business principles that govern the way we do business.
“Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our code of conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company.”
Responding specifically to the claim in the article that Shell “used middlemen Emeka Obi and Gianluca Di Nardo to orchestrate the deal”, the spokesperson said: “I would like to be clear that neither Emeka Obi nor Gianluca di Nardo worked on behalf of Shell and we were not a party to their fast-track trial.
Dennis Morton’s career as a photojournalist started in 1985 in South Africa. He spent sixteen years in South Africa working as a journalist and training and development specialist in the NGO and corporate sectors. He joined the extractive industry in 2000.
Dennis managed field operations in the extractive industry for 10 years in remote areas such as Rajasthan, India, Syria, Guinea and Kenya.
During this period he worked extensively with communities in the areas of stakeholder engagement and social responsibility.
Dennis is now a campaigner for the rights of indigenous people and others affected by projects associated with the extractive industry.
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The multinational Italian energy company, Eni, is partnering with Sasol to explore for deep sea gas and oil reserves offshore of KwaZulu-Natal’s coast. They plan to drill up to six deep-water wells within a prospecting block extending from Richard Bays in the north to Port Shepstone in the south. Today is last day available to comment on Eni’s draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.
The draft EIA can be accessed at www.erm.com/eni-exploration-eia.
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