Dutch prosecutors said yesterday that they are preparing to file criminal charges against Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell over suspected corruption in the attribution of Nigerian oil exploration rights in 2011.
"Based on the investigations still underway, the prosecutor has determined that actions which can be prosecuted criminally took place," said Valentine Hoen, a spokeswoman for the Dutch public prosecutor's office.
For its part, Shell acknowledged that it had "been informed by the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office that they are nearing the conclusion of their investigation and are preparing to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell plc for criminal charges directly or indirectly related to the 2011 settlement of disputes over Oil Prospecting License 245 (OPL 245) in Nigeria."
The Dutch public prosecutor's office has indicated it will wait until its investigations are completed before saying what actions it will pursue against Shell.
Shell, which is being tried in Italy along with Italian energy company Eni over suspected corruption in the acquisition of the rights to explore for oil in the offshore block, has always insisted that no unlawful actions took place.
Italian magistrates suspect the two oil groups used bribes to obtain rights to OPL245, estimated to hold nine billion barrels of crude, for $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euros).
Of that amount, almost $1.1 billion is believed to represent bribes paid to a London bank account that ended up going to various Nigerian politicians, including former oil minister Dan Etete.
Two people considered as intermediaries in the case were convicted last year and received four-year jail terms.
Nigeria's government is pursuing a case in London to recover the $1.1 billion.