The Italian prosecutor of the case involving officials of Italian Oil company Eni, Shell and persons connected to Malabu Oil OML 245 is under fire over conduct considered unethical during the three year duration of the trial. The prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale is currently under investigation by the Ministry of Justice in Milan over conduct that included unethical conduct and serial acts of professional misconduct, a source informed National Point.
On March 17, 2021, the court in Milan, had ruled that Chief Dan Etete, believed to the power behind Malabu Oil and who was Petroleum Minister under the Abacha regime from 1995 to 1998, and 11 others standing trial for a corruption matter since 2018 had done no wrong in transactions in which ownership of OPL 245 was transferred to Shell under an arrangement supervised by the Nigerian authorities.
Acquitted along with Etete are Claudio Descalzi and his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni officials of Italian oil company ENI. Other Eni executives acquitted are Roberto Casula, Ciro Pagano and Vincenzo Armanna. Shell officials acquitted included Malcolm Brinded, Peter Robinson, Guy Colegate and John Cople stone and middlemen Ednan Agaev, Luigi Bisignani and Gianfranco Falcioni.
Lawyers to the Chief Etete had following this aquittal released a statement which noted that, ‘The Milan court acquitted Chief Etete by deciding that there was no case to answer, that is that, the evidence was such that after 3 years and over 200 witnesses as to show no case against Chief Etete’. Further that, the civil case filed interalia against Etete, Shell and Eni have also failed’.
A twist to the story had been introduced following the trial and acquittal of the men, as lawyers to the erstwhile accused persons presented documents detailing series of unethical conduct against the prosecutor. These involved acts including tampering with evidence and suppression of evidence favourable to the erstwhile accused.
Meanwhile ongoing cases in Nigeria against Malabu Oil and OPL 245 are expected to resume as the courts in Nigeria resume after a two month shut down since April 2021 following protests by Judicial workers nationwide to push for autonomy for the judiciary.