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  • The OPL 245 oilfield is said to contain nine billion barrels and is estimated to be worth nearly half a trillion dollars.

    The OPL 245 oilfield is said to contain nine billion barrels and is estimated to be worth nearly half a trillion dollars. | Photo: Reuters

Shell and Italian oil company ENI acquired OPL 245, in 2011, from the Nigerian government for $1.3 billion. The government then passed on the money to Malabu, a company controlled by former Oil Minister Dan Etete.

According to the BBC top executives at Shell were aware that money paid to the Nigerian Government for an oilfield would go to a convicted money-launderer.

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The oilfield in question is believed to contain nine billion barrels and is estimated to be worth nearly half a trillion dollars. Shell has been active in Nigeria for nearly 60 years and was keen to acquire the field. The oilfield, OPL 245, is located off the coast of Nigeria.

This deal was reportedly brokered while Shell was operating under a probation order for a separate corruption case in Nigeria. Shell deny its employees acted contrary to the law. It is believed that some of the money was used to pay political bribes.

Former Nigerian Oil Minister Dan Etete's company had acquired the rights to OPL 245 for a meager sum while he was in office. Shell and Italian oil company ENI somehow acquired OPL 245, in 2011, from the Nigerian Government for a whopping $1.3 billion. The government then passed on the money to a company called Malabu, which was controlled by Etete – who was convicted of money laundering in a separate case.

According to the BBC, emails obtained by anti-corruption charities Global Witness and Finance Uncovered show that Shell representatives were in negotiations with Etete for at least a year before the deal was finalized. "Etete can smell the money. If, at 70 years old, he does turn his nose up at $1.2 billion he is completely certifiable and we should then probably just hold out until nature takes its course with him." That email was forwarded to the then Shell Chief Executive Peter Voser, revealing that knowledge of Etete's involvement went right to the top. Representatives of Voser declined to comment.

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Shell also had good reason to suspect that hundreds of millions would end up in the pockets of Nigerian politicians including the former President Goodluck Jonathan. In an email from July, the same Shell employee says Etete's negotiating strategy is "clearly an attempt to deliver significant revenues to GLJ [Goodluck Jonathan] as part of any transaction." Italian prosecutors allege that $466 million were laundered through a network of Nigerian bureaux de change to facilitate payments to then-President Jonathan and other politicians. A spokesperson for Goodluck Jonathan told the BBC that no charges or indictments have been brought or secured against the former president relating to this transaction and described the allegations as a "false narrative."

The BBC added that it was still awaiting a comment from Dan Etete, who has previously denied any wrongdoing in this matter.

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