The trial of top executives from oil majors, Eni and Shell, over alleged corruption in Nigeria, which kicked off yesterday with a brief procedural hearing has been re-adjourned till next month.
At the next hearing, set for June 20, the Milan court said it would assess requests from third parties, including a series of international non-profit organisations, to join the case.
Reuters reported that at yesterday’s hearing, a lawyer representing the Nigerian Government, Domenico Cartoni Schittar, said he was stepping down from his role.
In his comments in a signed document seen by Reuters, Cartoni Schittar said he had given up on a mandate, which he said had become “awkward”.
The long-running graft case revolves around the 2011 purchase by Eni and Shell of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oilfield for about $1.3 billion.
Milan prosecutors allege bribes were paid to win the license to explore an oil block that holds an estimated nine billion barrels of oil but which has never entered into production.
Global Witness, a campaign group that has conducted its own investigations, has described the case as one of the biggest corruption scandals in the history of the oil industry.
The Chief Executive Officer of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, and former Shell Foundation Chairman, Malcolm Brinded, are standing trial along with 11 other defendants and the two companies.
All the accused have denied any wrongdoing.
The former Shell executives involved in the case have claimed that a procedural error was made when the original ruling to send the case to court was taken and have applied to Italy’s Supreme Court to void it.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to judge that appeal on June 12. – Thisday.