Only 24 hours after claiming it had no knowledge of “improper payments” to a convicted money-launderer over a $1.3 billion (£1.1 billion) oil field acquisition in Nigeria, Shell has admitted it had known it was dealing with the controversial figure but doing so was “the only way to resolve [an] impasse”.
The oil scandal involves former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete, whose company Malabu bought the nine-billion-barrel OPL 245 field off the coast of Nigeria for just $2 million while he was in his government post.
Shell and its Italian partner ENI then bought the field from the Nigerian government in 2011 for $1.3 billion, with more than $1 billion being passed onto a company controlled by Etete, according to Italian prosecutors.
Etete — who was convicted of money-laundering in an unrelated case — denies wrongdoing.
Emails revealed Shell’s executives were negotiating directly with Etete for a year before the deal was finalised — with the oil major’s then-chief executive Peter Voser included in some correspondence.
Shell yesterday said: “If improper payments were made… to then-government officials in exchange for improper conduct relating to the 2011 settlement of the long-standing legal disputes… none of those payments were made with [Shell’s] knowledge, authorisation or on its behalf.”
Today, however, Shell said it had “made repeated attempts to fully establish and understand Malabu’s ownership structure, including the exact role of Mr Etete,” over several years, until “it became clear to us that Etete was involved in Malabu and that the only way to resolve the impasse… was to engage with Etete and Malabu.
“We knew the [Nigerian government] would compensate Malabu to settle its claim on the block. We believe that the settlement was a fully legal transaction”.