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The latest developments from the ongoing trial in Milan

Trial at the Court of Milan on OPL 245 has reached its final stages.

A few updates

After around two years of court hearings, which followed an in-depth investigation, the OPL 245 trial in Milan has reached its final stages.

The indictment made by Public Prosecutor Sergio Spadaro was heard on 2 July this year and that of the Public Prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale on 21 July.  

Statements from the civil plaintiff and from the defence began in September

We are making these court documents available for all those interested, as we have already done with all documentation filed in the OPL 245 case. Eni believes these documents demonstrate it acted correctly at all times in the process of acquiring the Nigerian exploratory concession.

The legal process in Italy

At Eni’s request in 2014, the American law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP – specializing in anti-corruption matters – and an American forensic investigation company reviewed the procedure followed, the negotiations conducted, as well as the contract signed for the acquisition of OPL 245. Both investigations were completed in 2015 and confirmed the operation was legal.

However, in December 2017  five of Eni’s top managers, two of whom are no longer in charge, were committed for trial. The trial began on 5 May 2018 and is still in progress before the Court of Milan. At the hearing, the defence and Eni’s expert witnesses demonstrated that the company operated with fairness in its acquisition of OPL 245.
Here are the final steps of the legal proceedings before the Court of Milan:

  • 30 January 2020: The prosecution case against Shell and Eni is substantially based on statements made by the defendant Vincenzo Armanna, a former Eni manager dismissed in 2013 following a dispute over expense claims. Armanna claimed that $50 million in kickbacks had been paid to Eni senior managers, as reported to him by Nigerian intelligence officer Victor Nwafor. Summoned as a witness in court, the latter flatly denied Armanna’s claim. Armanna then asked to call a “second Victor”, but the judges rejected his request. Supported by the public prosecutor, Armanna then returned to the fray with a “third Victor”, whom he identified as his true source. The Court heard this witness’s evidence on 30 January, 2020. However, the “third Victor” (whose real name is Isaac Eke) also denied Armanna’s claims. At the same hearing, it was also found that Armanna had lied about the number of passports available to him (he had three, not one, valid over the period concerned) for the purpose of making it difficult to trace his trips to Nigeria. Also at the hearing of 30 January, 2020, Salvatore Castilletti, the former head of the AISE [External Intelligence and Security Agency] in Abuja, cited by Armanna as a person informed about the facts, denied he had ever been aware of the OPL 245 operation.
  • 6 February 2020: The Court rejected as irrelevant the Public Prosecutor’s in extremis attempt to summon Piero Amara, Eni’s former external legal affairs advisor, a prior offender and under investigation in another case. The prosecution had taken up Armanna’s allegations that Amara was able to provide information on purported attempts to influence the Court in the current proceedings.
  • 22 May 2020: the High Court of Justice in London, UK, denied its jurisdiction over the OPL 245 case and rejected the lawsuit filed by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Italian courts therefore remained the sole authorities in charge of the claim.

Eni is now awaiting the Court’s verdict, on completion of the Public Prosecutor’s closing arguments, the plaintiffs’ statements, and the closing statements of the defence. Eni trusts that the truth will soon be established, not least because the prospecting licence for Block 245 expires in 2021 and the Nigerian Federal Government has not yet converted its prospecting licence into an oil mining lease (OLM). 

Not a single oil barrel has been drilled to date.