Oil giants Shell and Eni knowingly participated in a vast bribery scheme for one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks which deprived Nigeria and its people of $1.1billion, an exposé by Global Witness and Finance Uncovered revealed earlier this week

New, leaked internal emails seen by Global Witness and Finance Uncovered show that Shell’s most senior decision-makers knew that the money they paid for oil block OPL 245 in 2011 would go to convicted money launderer and ex-Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete – rather than to benefit the Nigerian people. 

Global Witness has investigated and exposed this case for six years and during that time Shell has consistently denied any wrong-doing, saying it only paid the Nigerian government.

The newly leaked emails show this denial is misleading. Emails that went to then CEO Peter Voser reveal that he knew this massive payment would go to Etete. Other emails show that money was likely to flow to some of the most powerful people in the country, including to then President Goodluck Jonathan.

Simon Taylor of Global Witness, said: “This is one of the worst corruption scandals the oil industry has ever seen, and this is the biggest development so far. Today’s new evidence shows senior executives at the world’s fifth biggest company knowingly entered into a corrupt deal that deprived the Nigerian people of $1.1billion. To put that in context, the payment for this deal is worth more than Nigeria’s entire health budget for 2016.”

The money paid for the block equates to approximately one and a half times what the UN says is needed to respond to the country’s current famine crisis. 

Millions of people’s pensions across the UK are invested in Shell.

Ben Van Beurden has been Shell’s CEO since 2013. In 2015 he told Global Witness that payments for the block were “morally OK” and “in accordance with the law of Nigeria and international practice”.  

The leaked emails tell a very different story. One internal email copied to then CEO Peter Voser, states: “Etete can smell the money. If at nearly 70 years old he does turn his nose up at nearly $1.2 bill (sic) he is completely certifiable. But I think he knows it’s his for the taking.”

An Italian court will begin hearings on 20th April to determine whether Shell will face trial on international corruption charges. Several Shell executives from the time of the deal may face proceedings in their personal capacity.

You can view the full response from Shell here and the full response from Eni here.