February 15, 2018 / 6:25 PM / 7 days ago

Nigerian court sets Malabu oilfield corruption case hearing for June 18

ABUJA, Feb 15 (Reuters) - A Nigerian court has set a hearing over a disputed 2011 oilfield deal for June 18, the country’s financial crimes watchdog said on Thursday, part of a string of international corruption probes into the purchase.

The case relates to a purchase of the offshore OPL 245 oilfield in Nigeria by oil majors Royal Dutch Shell and Eni in 2011.

At the core of the case is a $1.3 billion payment from Shell and Eni to secure the block from Malabu Oil and Gas, allegedly controlled by former Nigerian oil minister Dan Etete.

Nigeria’s government has also filed a claim in Britain against JPMorgan Chase over its alleged involvement in the deal.

Nigeria’s financial watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said in its Thursday statement that the defendants are accused of being part of a scheme to defraud the government of 1.1 billion naira.

The Nigerian court case is now awaiting the arraignment of the defendants, including former attorney general, ex-ministers of justice and oil and various senior managers, current and former, from Shell and Eni, the EFCC said.

Both Eni and Shell have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to the deal, which is also being investigated in Italy and the Netherlands, where Eni and Shell are respectively based.

The Nigerian court case has been repeatedly delayed as defendants have failed to appear for hearings.

The government “is still working hard to ensure the presence of the defendants in court” but requested the adjournment as it tries to secure the extradition from overseas of some of those charged, the EFCC said. (Reporting by Tife Owolabi and Camillus Eboh; Writing by Paul Carsten, editing by David Evans)

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