The chair of parliament's international development committee has called for the government to make clear what it is doing to investigate a $1.3 billion oil deal signed by Shell and Italian oil company ENI in Nigeria.
The call comes after BuzzFeed News and the Italian newspaper Il Sore 24 Ore published “Shell Shocks”, a cache of emails and court documents revealing that Shell top executives signed off on a deal with full knowledge that most of the money would go to Malabu, a company connected to a former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete.
The documents also show that Shell employees knew of — and explicitly discussed — the risk that payments could be used by Etete to pay people off.
In a statement, Shell said it did not believe the company or any of its current or former colleagues had acted illegally. ENI said neither it nor its employees had been involved in any wrongdoing, and were fully cooperating with authorities.
On Monday a coalition of media outlets and NGOs, including Global Witness and the BBC, independently reported much of the same material.
In a statement, Stephen Twigg – a Labour MP and head of the international development committee – said the revelations were “shocking”.
“This case is about the sale of a Nigerian oilfield, but involves at its centre one of the UK’s biggest registered companies," he continued. "The responsibility for dealing with such cases rests with the UK, as much as it does with the Nigerian authorities, and the government must clarify what action it is taking to address these allegations.
“At a time when Nigeria’s people are facing famine, the diversion of such enormous sums of money is utterly indefensible. It is vital that this case is dealt with as quickly as possible so that the money so urgently needed can be returned to the Nigerian people."
He added: "The Committee repeats its calls on the Government to hold to account companies registered in the UK to take a stronger stance on transparency measures such as public beneficial ownership registers in the Overseas Territories, and to consider carefully the ramifications of Brexit on important safeguards such as the EU Accounting Directive, which could help to prevent such cases arising in the future.”
ENI said its deal for the block had been with the government of Nigeria. “Neither ENI nor Shell paid any monies other than as contemplated and recorded by the Block Resolution Agreement and did not pay to Malabu, to Chief Dan Etete or to any public officer,” the spokesman added.
James Ball is a special correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London. PGP: here
Contact James Ball at James.Ball@buzzfeed.com.
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