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UK court throws out Nigerian oil corruption case against Shell, Eni

LONDON (Reuters) - An English court threw out a $1.1 billion case Nigeria had brought against Royal Dutch Shell and Eni related to a dispute over the OPL 245 oilfield, a court document showed on Friday, while a related trial in Italy continues.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Royal Dutch Shell is seen at a petrol station in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, Belgium January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The Nigerian government filed the case in 2018 at a commercial court in London alleging payments made by the companies to get the oilfield licence in 2011 were used for kickbacks and bribes.

Justice Butcher said in his ruling seen by Reuters that the High Court “must decline jurisdiction over the action against” Shell and the other defendants.

Eni said it was pleased the London court had rejected its jurisdiction in the matter, noting the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. SEC had both closed investigations of Eni on OPL 245 matters without taking any action.

A Shell spokeswoman said the company welcomed the decision.

“We maintain that the 2011 settlement... related to OPL 245 was a fully legal transaction with Eni and the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN),” she said.

A spokesman for Nigeria said it was “naturally disappointed the Court has declined jurisdiction”.

“Nigeria continues to support the criminal proceedings underway in Milan ... we intend to seek permission to appeal this decision (in London),” the spokesman said.

The OPL 245 oilfield is also central to a corruption trial in Milan -- in which former officials from the companies and, in Eni’s case, some current ones, are on the bench -- as well as court proceedings Nigeria started against JP Morgan, which processed some of the payments in question.

The bank has said it considers the allegations against it “unsubstantiated and without merit”.

The Shell spokeswoman said that the group did not believe there was a case to answer.

Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Additional reporting by Libby George, Ron Bousso, Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Edmund Blair, Kirsten Donovan