Italian prosecutors are investigating Royal Dutch Shell as part of a probe into the acquisition of an offshore oil field in Nigeria, the Anglo-Dutch company said on Wednesday.
Oil Prospecting Licence 245 was said to have been purchased in 2011 by Shell and Eni for $1.3bn. But corruption scandal has continued to trail the transaction.
“We can confirm we have received notice of proceedings from the public prosecutor in Italy,” Reutersquoted a Shell spokesman to have said.
Earlier on Wednesday, a judicial source told Reuters that Shell was under investigation by Milan-based judges for alleged international corruption.
Shell headquarters in The Hague were searched in February by Dutch police and prosecutors as part of this new strand of investigations, the company spokesman also said.
In 2014, a Milan court placed Eni under investigation over the $1.3bn purchase in 2011 of OPL 245 offshore oil block by the Italian major and Shell.
Prosecutors later widened their investigation to include Eni’s Chief Executive Officer, Claudio Descalzi.
Eni and Descalzi have denied any wrongdoing. The state-controlled oil company has always said it dealt exclusively with the government of Nigeria, paid fees into a government account and did not use intermediaries for the transaction.
“Shell is cooperating with the authorities and is looking into the allegations, which it takes seriously,” the spokesman said, adding, “Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity, one of our core values.”
Italian prosecutors are working jointly with an anti-fraud team in the Netherlands in order to determine whether the two oil companies paid bribes to obtain licences for the Nigerian site, the judicial source said, confirming reports by Italy’s daily Corriere della Sera.
The OPL 245, which has been at the centre of a series of long-standing disputes, was initially awarded in 1998 by former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete, to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company in which he was a shareholder.
The field was then sold in 2011 to Eni and Shell. According to documents from a British court, Malabu received $1.09bn from the sale, while the rest went to the Nigerian government.