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Nigeria to pursue $3.5 bln claim against Eni, Shell over Malabu oil fraud

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Nigeria will continue its $3.5 billion civil claim against Shell Plc and Eni SpA after Italian prosecutors dropped criminal proceedings against the companies, a lawyer representing Africa’s largest crude producer said.

The West African country, which joined the case as a civil party in 2018, still plans to appeal the March 2021 ruling by a court in Milan acquitting the energy giants and several of their current and former executives of corruption charges, a lawyer for the Nigerian government, Olabode Johnson said by phone.

Prosecutors, who said on Tuesday they would not challenge the decision, had alleged executives involved in the 2011 deal to acquire an offshore oil permit knew that much of the $1.1 billion paid into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government would be disbursed as bribes.

Shell and Eni welcomed the prosecution’s decision. “We have always maintained that the 2011 settlement was legal and were pleased that the court found, in 2021, there was no case to answer for Shell or its former employees,” a spokeswoman for Shell said by email.

The acquittals have become “full and final,” Eni said in a statement. The case resulted in “serious and unfair reputational damage” for the company and its management, it said.

Nigeria seeks compensation of $3.5 billion because it’s the true value of the license purchased by Shell and Eni, Johnson said.

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