FACTBOX-Legal cases sparked by Nigerian OPL 245 oilfield licence

(Adds latest developments)

LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - One of the oil industry’s biggest court cases over alleged corruption in Nigeria involves an offshore oilfield licence known as OPL 245, which Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s Eni bought in 2011.

Italian prosecutors allege that most of the payment for the licence was siphoned off to politicians and middlemen.

Shell and Eni and the managers accused in the Milan court case, including Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, have all denied any wrongdoing.

Below is a list of some of the main legal actions that have arisen from the award of OPL 245:

* Key issues related to the OPL 245 field came to light in two separate civil suits here filed shortly after the 2011 deal by a Nigerian and a former Russian diplomat who said they were owed millions of dollars by a Nigerian company, Malabu Oil and Gas, for arranging meetings with Shell and Eni in relation to the licence.

* Nigeria filed a case in London in 2017 against U.S. bank JPMorgan alleging negligence for its role in transferring more than $800 million of government funds to Malabu owned by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete. JP Morgan has said it considers the allegations against it “unsubstantiated and without merit.”

* In May 2018, Nigerian civil rights group Human & Environmental Development Agenda launched a legal case aimed at forcing the government to revoke the award of OPL 245.

* In May 2018, the main trial in Milan started. Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, former Shell exploration chief Malcolm Brinded and 11 other defendants, as well as the two companies, were accused by Italian prosecutors of paying bribes to secure the licence. All the accused denied wrongdoing.

* In September 2018, in a separate trial in Milan, Emeka Obi and Italian Gianluca Di Nardo were sentenced to jail in a corruption case related to OPL 245. Obi and Di Nardo appealed the ruling.

* In March 2019, Dutch prosecutors said they were preparing criminal charges against Shell over OPL 245.

* In April 2019, a Nigerian judge issued arrest warrants for Dan Etete, another former minister and an Eni manager over the sale of OPL 245. Etete has denied allegations related to the case.

* In July 2020, Italian prosecutors asked a Milan court for oil majors Eni and Shell to be fined 900,000 euros each and some of their present and former executives, including Eni’s Descalzi, to be jailed. They further requested that nearly $1.1 billion, the equivalent of the alleged bribes, be confiscated from all the defendants.

* In October 2020, Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi’s lawyer told a Milan court the CEO should be acquitted of corruption in the OPL 245 case since there is no evidence to support the charges. Lawyers representing Shell, Eni and the accused executives are due to make their closing arguments in the Milan trial in November 2020.

* In November 2020, a London judge ruled that the Nigerian lawsuit against JP Morgan would go to a six-week trial at the first available date after Nov. 1 next year.


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