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Shell facing multiple charges over corruption, emissions, and an explosion

Key Points
  • Oil giant Shell will be prosecuted by the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office over an allegedly corrupt deal in Nigeria.
  • Shell and Italian firm Eni stand accused of bribery over payments made to secure an exploration licence for a Nigerian oil block.
  • Shell has also been summoned by Dutch prosecutors over an explosion at its Moerdijk facility in 2014, as well as accusations it exceeded ethylene oxide emissions limits between 2015 and 2016.
Carl Court | AFP | Getty Images

Shell will be prosecuted for criminal charges relating to a $1.3 billion settlement for an oil exploration licence in Nigeria, and has also been summoned by prosecutors to face charges over chemical emissions and an explosion.

The Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office (DPP) informed Shell it is nearing the conclusion of an investigation into the case and is preparing to prosecute the oil giant, the company said in a statement on its website Friday.

Shell and Italian oil firm Eni were accused of bribery in 2017 over a $1.3 billion payment that secured an exploration licence for an oil block, known as OPL 245, in 2011. It was alleged that although the funds were paid to the Nigerian government, the money actually went to Malabu Oil and Gas — a company linked to former oil minister Dan Etete.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and four ex-Shell managers are also facing charges of international corruption in Italy, where prosecutors allege they were aware that payments would be pocketed by individuals rather than the Nigerian government.

Shell and Eni have both denied any wrongdoing.

In an emailed statement, the DPP told CNBC Friday: "On the basis of the ongoing criminal investigation, the Public Prosecution Service concluded that there are prosecutable offenses. We are not yet able to make any announcements about the further course of the case."

In November, a report from campaign group Global Witness said that Nigeria would lose $6 billion in oil revenue because of the terms of the allegedly corrupt deal.

Shell declined to comment when contacted by CNBC about the DPP's decision to prosecute.

Responding to the prosecution announcement, an Eni spokesperson told CNBC via email that the company had no involvement in the proceedings brought by Dutch prosecutors.

"Eni confirms, once again and as based on the current outcomes in the ongoing trial in Milan, the correctness and compliance of every aspect of the transaction in respect of OPL 245 concluded in 2011, both with applicable laws and global industry practice," the spokesperson said. "Eni continues to reject any allegation of impropriety or irregularity in connection with its conduct."

A spokesperson the Federal Government of Nigeria was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

More legal problems

The DPP also confirmed to CNBC on Friday that it had summoned Shell in proceedings relating to an explosion at its Moerdijk facility in 2014, as well as charges relating to the company exceeding ethylene oxide emissions limits between 2015 and 2016.

The case is scheduled to be heard at a court in the Dutch city of 's-Hertogenbosch on May 14 and 16.

Commenting on the additional proceedings being taken by the DPP, a Shell spokesperson told CNBC: "We obviously regret these incidents and the impact it had on our neighbors and those affected by it. We have worked hard in the interim years to take measures to avoid this happening again."

Shell's shares were trading 0.4 percent lower on Friday afternoon.