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MILAN, July 4 Italian prosecutors have opened a
probe into alleged corruption relating to the 2011 acquisition
of a big oil field in Nigeria by Italian oil group Eni
and Shell, judicial sources with direct knowledge of
the matter said on Friday.
The sources said the investigation related to alleged
international corruption surrounding the purchase of the block.
Eni confirmed the investigation and said in response to a
Reuters' request for comment: "Eni declares the absolute
properness of its handling of the dealings in question and
assures its full cooperation with Italian prosecutors."
The probe relates to the purchase of offshore oil block OPL
245 in Nigeria. Last year, British police began investigating a
money-laundering allegation in connection with the same field.
Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano said on Friday police had
visited Eni offices last Wednesday to notify the company it was
being investigated and to ask for documents.
In response to Il Fatto's article, Eni confirmed it had
received notice of the probe and said it had done no wrongdoing.
The concession for OPL 245, which industry sources have said
could contain up to 9.23 billion barrels of crude, was awarded
to Eni and Shell by the Nigerian government in 2011 for $1.3
At that time, Nigeria said it was helping to resolve an
ownership dispute over the block between Shell and Malabu Oil
and Gas company and immediately transferred $1.09 billion from
the sale to Malabu.
"No commercial agreement was reached by Eni with the Malabu
company that previously owned the block in question," Eni said,
adding it had paid the amount into a current account of the
The judicial sources said Shell was not under investigation
by the Italian authorities because the company is in a different
Shell declined to comment on the Italian investigation.
A Shell spokesman said of the OPL 245 deal: "Shell companies
have acted at all times in accordance with both Nigerian law and
the terms of the OPL 245 resolution agreement with FGN (Nigerian
government). We are open and transparent about all payments made
by Shell companies to the FGN and how much they were."
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes. Editing by Jane Merriman)