The Nigerian government has filed a $1 billion suit against Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Eni SpA and other companies over a 2011 oil deal it says was tainted by corruption.
The suit, Nigeria v. Royal Dutch Shell, with case number CL-2018-000787, was filed Wednesday in London at the High Court of Justice, Commercial Court.
The government alleges that money the oil companies paid to acquire an oil exploration license in the Gulf of Guinea was diverted into bribes and kickbacks. The transaction is already the subject of a separate, ongoing criminal trial in Milan.
According to the government, Shell and Eni are partly responsible for the behavior of “corrupt Nigerian officials” who used a $1.1 billion payment to acquire the oil block for personal enrichment. The suit seeks to recoup that money, which it says belongs to the Nigerian people.
Reuters reports that Shell and Eni have previously denied any wrongdoing in the criminal case over the block, called OPL 245, that is under way in Italy. They said they made the payment into a legitimate government account to settle legal claims related to the block. Spokespeople for both companies said they were looking into the new lawsuit and couldn’t immediately comment.