12-20-17 7:12 AM EST | Email Article
By Eric Sylvers in Milan and Sarah Kent in London 

An Italian judge Wednesday indicted Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the chief executive of the Italian oil-and-gas company Eni SpA and other industry executives on corruption charges connected to a 2011 deal to acquire drilling rights off the coast of Nigeria.

Prosecutors say in court documents that Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and the other executives at both Shell and Eni knew that most of the $1.3 billion Eni and Shell paid to the Nigerian government to acquire the drilling rights would be distributed as bribes. Prosecutors will argue that Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president at the time of the deal, received part of the kickbacks, according to court documents.

The trial is due to start March 5 and marks a rare example of senior executives being criminally charged in connection with corruption in the oil sector.

Prosecutors are expected to delve into the operations of the two companies and more widely into an industry that often operates in countries where graft is pervasive like Nigeria.

Other executives indicted include Eni's former chief executive Paolo Scaroni, Eni's CEO at the time of the deal, and Malcolm Brinded, Shell's global exploration and production chief at the time of the deal. Mr. Brinded has since left Shell.

Eni's board of directors said it had "full confidence" that Mr. Descalzi wasn't involved in illegal conduct and "reaffirmed its confidence that the company wasn't involved in alleged corrupt activities." Eni said it ordered an independent investigation that looked into the matter that gave it confidence in its executives.

"Eni expresses its full confidence in the judicial process and that the trial will ascertain and confirm the correctness and integrity of its conduct," the company said.

Shell said it was "disappointed" by the indictment, but that it believes a trial will show there is no case against the company or its former employees. "There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company."

Mr. Brinded said: "I have done nothing wrong and believe that will become clear in any legal proceedings. I stand by my view that there is absolutely no basis for the charges against me."

Write to Eric Sylvers at eric.sylvers@wsj.com and Sarah Kent at sarah.kent@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 20, 2017 07:12 ET (12:12 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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