In 2011, Shell and Eni, paid $1.3 billion to the Nigerian government for the acquisition of an oil block prospecting license.
However, it was alleged that about $1.1 billion of that amount ended up in the account of Malabo Oil and Gas, which was owned by the then Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete and was used to pay political bribes.
He was alleged to have secretly awarded the oil fields to Malabo which he owns. Both oil firms have however, consistently denied being aware that the money would be used as bribes, but a report alleged that senior Shell executives were briefed on how the money would be used.
Shell and Eni are already being investigated over the matter. In February 2016, Italian and Dutch prosecutors began a formal investigation into the activities of Shell in acquiring OPL 245 having already began investigations on Eni officials in 2014.
Shell and Eni are still on trial in Milan under the Italian legislation that mandates that companies will be liable for crimes committed by directors and executives when a suspected unlawful conduct has benefitted the legal entity.
While the Italian trial is in its final stages, other lawsuits are pending elsewhere over the same Nigerian oil deal.
A spokesman for Nigeria expressed the country’s disappointment at the court’s decision to decline jurisdiction. He said that the country would continue to support the criminal proceedings still going on in the Italian court and seek permission to appeal the decision in UK court.