By Yunus Yusuf
Lagos, March 1, 2019
Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, Manager, Media Communications of Shell Nigeria, has confirmed the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office investigations against Royal Dutch Shell (RDS).
Odugbesan, who confirmed the development to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos, said the investigations was over its 1.3 billion dollars acquisition deals in Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245
The Shell Nigeria spokesman said: “We have been informed by the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (DPP) that they are nearing the conclusion of their investigations and are preparing to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell Plc with criminal charges directly or indirectly related to the 2011 settlement of disputes over Oil Prospecting License 245 (OPL-245) in Nigeria.
“As appropriate, we will provide updates as this matter progresses,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the Dutch authorities had issued a final notice of its intention to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell for criminal charges over OPL-245 oil and gas field in Nigeria, relating to the 2011 agreement between Nigerian officials and the company.
Earlier in the year, four Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) wrote the Minister of Justice of The Netherlands to warn against out-of-court settlement in the case instituted by the Netherlands Government against Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS) and Shell Petroleum over the acquisition of the OPC-245 oil and gas field in Nigeria.
They argued that they considered themselves as stakeholders in the case having submitted a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office in the Netherlands, requesting criminal investigation of RDS, Shell and Shell executives for offences under Dutch laws relating to the deal.
“We held that this (out-of-court settlement) will not be in the public interest unless stringent conditions are attached”, the letter, dated January 9, 2019 and signed by Nicholas Hildyard for the Corner House, Luca Manes for Re: Common, Olanrewaju Suraju for HEDA and Simon Taylor for Global Witness said.
The groups explained that whereas, in principle, they were not opposed to out-of-court settlements in cases where the defendant was ineligible for a custodian sentence, any settlement that does not produce a remedy proportionate to the alleged crime could not be seen as just.
They listed three grounds to justify their opposition to out-of-court settlement for RDS, Shell and Shell executives on the OPL 245 oil and gas field case as follows, “The defendants has vigorously denied any criminality, and consequently any settlement will establish a precedent that the Dutch system is prepared to tolerate corporate recidivism and any settlement without a full and clear statement of facts and admission of guilt will be contrary to the interests of open justice.”
The groups said that if, notwithstanding their concerns, the Netherlands authorities deemed a settlement to be in the public interest, it would be unacceptable to allow the companies to continue to profit from the alleged corruption in the OPL-245 deal.
According to them, should the Dutch Prosecutor have sufficient evidence, they will expect those prosecutions to go to trial, even if a settlement option is available.
The bone of contention is the agreement which was made on April 29, 2011. It was made up of three separate resolution agreements.
The first, titled “BLOCK 245 MALABU RESOLUTION AGREEMENT” was signed between representatives of the Federal Government and those of Malabu, which was represented during the discussions by a former petroleum minister, Dan Etete.
“The second agreement titled “BLOCK 245 RESOLUTION AGREEMENT” was between the Nigerian government and officials of Shell and Eni/AGIP; while the third agreement titled “BLOCK 245 SNUD RESOLUTION AGREEMENT”, was signed by officials of the Nigerian government and Shell.
Former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke and former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, signed all the agreements on behalf of the Federal Government.