In the reasons for the sentence that acquitted the CEO Barefoot and 14 other defendants in the trial ENI-Shell Nigeria there are harsh accusations against the Milan prosecutor’s office. In addition to the lack of “certain and reliable evidence of the existence of the corruption agreement”, an alleged key witness of the prosecution is described as “embarrassing” and the statements of the “great accuser” unreliable or erratic. Above all, however, the words of the magistrates are heavy as boulders Marco Tremolada, Mauro Gallina and Alberto Carboni on the evidence for the defendants “not filed in the proceedings” by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The reference is to a video shot by Eni’s former external lawyer Piero Amara, is also at the center of the investigation into Eni’s alleged misdirection of the Milanese investigations, which is still underway in preliminary investigations, and was arrested in recent days by the Potenza prosecutor for an investigation into the former Ilva.
In the video, the role of Vincenzo Armanna, who would have intended to “cast an aura of illegality on Eni’s management of the acquisition of the oil exploration concession, in order to obtain – through Amara’s intervention – the removal from Nigeria of those who had participated to the shop”.
Armanna during the preliminary investigations had partially retracted his accusations, and then proposed them again in the trial, claiming to have been the object of pressure from Eni officials for the previous change of version: “Vincenzo Armanna’s wandering behavior during the investigations did not it integrates a clue against Descalzi, or at least a serious and univocal clue “, the judges write. In the video, Armanna also mentioned the need to remove some Eni executives in Nigeria in order to then be able to do business to the detriment of the Italian company.
With the sentence of March 17 last all the defendants, plus the companies Eni and Shell, were acquitted “because the fact does not exist”. The accusation consisted in having paid over a billion dollars in tangentsi for the concession of Nigeria to the two oil groups of the Opl-245 offshore field. The Milan prosecutor claimed that precisely $ 1.092 billion in bribes had been paid for the exploitation of that field, paid into an account of the Abuja government. The disputed facts ranged from 2009 to 2014.
The Prosecutor’s Office in July 2019 had asked for the conviction of all the defendants, who have always rejected the accusations, noting that the purchase price was paid into an official government account and that the subsequent transfer of over a billion to other accounts, particularly those attributable to the Malabu company of the former oil minister Dan Etete, was outside the sphere of influence of the acquiring companies.
“At the outcome of the investigation it was not possible to reconstruct with certainty all the facts subject to the charge despite the acquisition of thousands of documents and the cross-examination of dozens of witnesses and partisan consultants – the judges write in their motivations – Some profiles of the story remain partly obscure and can be the subject of probabilistic and hypothetical reconstructions “.
As for Eni Descalzi’s number one, “from the reading of specific conduct there is no reference, even only in the attenuated form of awareness, to the typical conduct of participation in corrupt agreements that would have determined public officials”.
The judges then, after agreeing with the power of attorney that the “untraceable, handled money” is “circumstantial evidence of the generically illicit nature of the payments derived from the proceeds” of the oil block, but conclude that “it is not acceptable ‘conclusive assumption that a large part of this sum in cash, if not all, ended up in the availability of the Nigerian public officials who made the illicit agreements possible “.