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Recorded call reveals Shell worried Nigerian oil deal could lead to U.S. probe

Top executives at Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A, RDS.B) last year were worried that a controversial Nigerian oil deal may have violated an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department and would prompt an investigation, according to a recorded phone call between CEO Ben van Beurden and Simon Henry, the company’s CFO at the time.

In the call, van Beurden said he was worried that Shell’s own investigators had discovered internal emails that could cast the company in a negative light and widen the investigation by drawing in U.S. authorities; the call was recorded and has now been made public.

Shell already is under investigation in Italy, Nigeria and The Netherlands for a $1.3B deal in 2011 with Eni (E -0.3%) and the Nigerian government for the lucrative OPL 245 Atlantic Ocean oil license, believed to contain billions of barrels of crude; they suspect the companies knew the deal’s proceeds would be used to pay bribes in Nigeria.

Shell and Eni said Friday they paid the Nigerian government for the oil block but did not believe the money would ultimately be used for bribes.


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