Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his oil minister accepted massive bribes as part of a $1.3 billion (€1.23 billion) deal involving European oil firms ENI and Shell, according to prosecutors in Italy.
Jonathan and Diezani Alison-Madueke are said to have played a key role in an agreement that saw the two firms pay the money for an offshore oil block in Nigeria in 2011.
Court documents filed in Milan in December, which have been seen by the AFP news agency, outline a case against 11 people involved in the deal, including executives from the two firms and the companies themselves.
Although they are not named in the documents, prosecutors say Jonathan, Alison-Madueke and other senior government officials benefitted to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks that were paid to ensure the deal went through smoothly.
ENI CEO Claudio Descalzi and his predecessor Paolo Scaroni are said to have met with Jonathan to negotiate the deal in person. Prosecutors say representatives from both Shell and EDI worked on the agreement with Dan Etete, the former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum.
They allege the oil giants acquired the block illegally in contravention of domestic law, and paid a total of $1.09 billion into Malabu accounts controlled Etete, $466 million of which was converted into cash in Nigeria to be distributed among government officials, including Jonathan and Alison-Madueke.
Abubakar Aliyu, a man prosecutors describe as an “agent” of Jonathan, withdrew a further $54 million, it is claimed.
Recipients of the funds are alleged to have used the money to purchase “property, aeroplanes, [and] armoured cars”, prosecutors said.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, has also recently pressed charges in connection with the oil block deal.
Both Royal Dutch Shell and ENI deny any wrongdoing, and claim they had no idea any of the money they paid as part of the agreement would be transferred to Malibu.
In an email to AFP, Shell said: “We are aware of the investigation and we hope to show the prosecutor that there is no basis to prosecute Shell.
“Shell takes this matter seriously and is co-operating with the authorities.”
Discussing the case last year, Barnaby Pace from anti-corruption and environmental abuse NGO Global Witness told London’s Evening Standard: “The $1 billion that went missing was equivalent to 80% of Nigeria’s health budget, but the money did not benefit the country’s citizens.
“The deal proves how critical it is that the public can find out who the real owners of companies are so that criminals cannot disguise their identities.”