The verdict ends a three-year legal saga that loomed large over the tenure of Eni Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi, who was among those found not guilty on Wednesday. Italian prosecutors had sought an eight-year jail term for him.
Several former executives of the companies were also cleared of wrongdoing, including Malcolm Brinded, who ran Shell’s exploration and production division at the time, and Paolo Scaroni, who was Eni CEO before Descalzi.
The ruling is a blow for Nigeria’s government, which joined the case as a civil party in 2018 and was seeking compensation.
Prosecutors had charged that executives involved in the 2011 deal to secure Offshore Oil Prospecting License 245 knew that much of the $1.1 billion they deposited into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government would be disbursed as bribes. Yet several of their key witnesses failed to back up those allegations when called to testify.
The companies and executives accused have consistently denied any wrongdoing. In 2018, two middlemen were found guilty of corruption in a separate trial.
“After three years of trial, thousands of documents analyzed, finally we have a sentence that gives back to Descalzi his professional role,” said Paola Severino, the Eni CEO’s lawyer.
At a parliamentary hearing last year, Descalzi said Eni hasn’t suffered reputational damage from the case or any setbacks to its operational plans. He was reappointed to his position by the Italian government in April, his third mandate, which runs to mid-2023. The Treasury and Italy’s state-back lender are Eni’s biggest shareholders.
The original full article can be found at bloomberg.com
(Photo: Stefano Rellandini / Reuters File Photo)