An Italian federal judge has approved the prosecution of Royal Dutch Shell and Eni in the $1.3 billion controversial sale of OPL 245 oil block, Italian media reports confirmed on Wednesday.
The judge in Milan also said Eni executive, Claudio Descalzi, and his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni, should be tried for their role in the deal.
According to the report, the trial is expected to commence on March 5, 2018.
Italian prosecutors had earlier indicted Shell and Agip for their role in the 2011 deal in which Nigeria sold the lucrative oil block to the two oil majors.
A former petroleum minister, Dan Etete, and a former Attorney-General, Bello Adoke, are amongst several Nigerians indicted in the deal, which was approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
Shell and Eni’s Nigerian subsidiary, Agip, are among those already being prosecuted in Nigeria.
In a prompt reaction to the judge’s decision, Shell said it was shocked.
“We are disappointed by the outcome of the preliminary hearing and the decision to indict Shell and its former employees. We believe the trial judges will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees.
“Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity. It’s one of our core values and is a central tenet of the Business Principles that govern the way we do business. Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our Code of Conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company,” the firm said in a statement.