Italy prosecutors ask Eni CEO to be sent to trial over Nigeria - sources

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian prosecutors have asked for the CEO of state-controlled oil major Eni ENI.MI, Claudio Descalzi, to stand trial over alleged corruption in Nigeria, judicial sources said on Wednesday.

The logo of Italian energy company Eni is seen at an Agip gas station in Lugano, Switzerland June 3, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

The prosecutors also asked for 10 other people, including former Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni, to be sent for trial along with the Eni and Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L companies, the sources said.

Scaroni was not immediately available for comment. No comment was immediately available from Shell.

The case revolves around the purchase in 2011 of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oil block by Eni and Shell for about $1.3 billion.

The prosecutors’ request comes amid political uncertainty in Italy and just weeks before the government is due to propose its CEO candidate for ENI for the next three years.

Descalzi, who since taking the helm in 2014 has refocused the group on its primary role of finding oil and gas, could be reappointed.

At 1415 GMT Eni shares were down 1.8 percent at 13.95 euros, after reaching their lowest level in nine weeks of 13.93 euros. The European oil and gas index .SXEP was down 0.7 percent.

In emailed comments, an Eni spokesperson said the company had not been informed of any decision and had acted correctly.

Under Italian law a company can be held responsible if it is deemed to have failed to prevent, or attempt to prevent, a crime by an employee that benefited the company.

The Italian probe is one of several threads of inquiry under way into the acquisition of OPL-245, including current cases in Holland and Nigeria.

In January a Nigerian court ordered the temporary forfeiture of assets and the transfer of operations of the oilfield.

Italian prosecutors closed their investigations into the case in December last year.

A court must now set a date for a hearing at which a judge will decide whether to accept the prosecutors’ request or acquit the accused.

Reporting by Manuela D’Alessandro; Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Ruth Pitchford