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Royal Dutch Shell reported on Friday that it faces prosecution in the Netherlands for criminal charges over the purchase of an oilfield offshore Nigeria in 2011.

The case relates to the joint purchase of an oil prospecting licence by Shell and Italian oil multinational Eni for the OPL 245 deepwater plot offshore Nigeria.

The Nigerian Government filed a $1.092bn lawsuit against Shell and Eni in December 2018, accusing the companies of bribery and conspiracy against the country.

It is alleged that Shell and Eni paid $1.1bn for the OPL 245 licence to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Dan Etete, with less than $200m being paid to Nigeria. It is also alleged that this money was used for kickbacks and bribes.

A spokesperson for Dutch prosecutors told Reuters: “Based on the preliminary criminal investigation, public prosecutors concluded that there are prosecutable offences.”

The OPL 245 plot has been the subject of a lawsuit in Italy, with Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and former Shell director Malcolm Brinded standing trial for charges of bribery in March 2018.

In a statement, Shell said: “We have been informed by the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (DPP) that they are nearing the conclusion of their investigation and are preparing to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell plc for criminal charges directly or indirectly related to the 2011 settlement of disputes over Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL 245) in Nigeria.

“As appropriate, we will provide updates as this matter progresses.”

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