Not so fast: That’s the message issued by the Department of Justice in response to a statement this week by Italian oil company Eni announcing the U.S. enforcement agency had closed its investigation into the company’s dealings with Oil Prospecting License 245 (OPL 245) in Nigeria and will not be taking any action.
Eni is currently on trial in Milan surrounding allegations it was involved in corrupt activities in relation to the OPL 245 transaction in Nigeria. Following Eni’s statement, Italian prosecutors sought clarification from the Department of Justice on if the decision to close the inquiry was due to a lack of evidence—which they said Eni’s statement seemed to imply.
In response to Eni’s “misleading implication” that the closing of the inquiry was due to lack of evidence, the Department of Justice sent the Italian prosecutors a copy of its original communication with Eni’s U.S. counsel. That letter stated the inquiry had been closed because Italian authorities were prosecuting the case and that it could be reopened if circumstances change, Reuters reports.
In its original statement, Eni first said the decision by the Department of Justice “confirms the findings of independent advisors, who conducted investigations into the claims following the decision taken by Eni’s controlling bodies, which also found no illegal activity.” In its revised statement, however, Eni said, “the company reminds that its controlling committees had outsourced to independent advisors internal investigations, which did not reveal any illegal conduct.”
“Eni’s misleading statement to the market should raise serious questions,” Barnaby Pace, of Global Witness, tells Compliance Week.
Eni also faces legal proceedings concerning allegations of corruption for the award of certain contracts to Saipem in Algeria. In 2011, Eni received from the Public Prosecutor of Milan an information request concerning allegations of international corruption pertaining to certain activities performed by Saipem Group companies in Algeria—in particular, a gas pipeline contract between Saipem and Sonatrach and a contract between Galsi, Saipem, and Technip for engineering of the ground section of a gas pipeline.
Royal Dutch Shell update
On Oct. 2, Royal Dutch Shell, in a statement to Reuters, said the Department of Justice had closed its inquiry surrounding allegations relating to OPL 245. Like Eni, Shell is also on trial in Milan.
“The U.S. Department of Justice has notified us that it has closed its inquiry into Shell in relation to OPL 245,” Shell said. “We understand that this is based on the facts available to the DoJ, including ongoing legal proceedings in Europe.”
Editor’s note: This original story, published Oct. 2, cited Eni’s original announcement regarding the end of the Department of Justice’s investigation. The story has been updated Oct. 3 to reflect the DOJ’s response and add Royal Dutch Shell’s related statement.