Italian Prosecutors have asked a Milan Court to admit documents sourced from a United States bank, JPMorgan, in a corruption trial over the acquisition of an oilfield in Nigeria by Eni and Shell.
The corruption case is based on the purchase of the Oil Prospecting Licence 245 in 2011 for about $1.3bn. Prosecutors allege that about $1.1bn of that was siphoned off to politicians and middlemen.
A former Petroleum Minister, Dan Etete, had in 1998 awarded OPL 245 to Malabu Oil and Gas, which later sold it to Eni and Shell.
The Nigerian government acted as an intermediary between the oil majors and Malabu Oil and Gas, a company allegedly controlled by Etete.
According to Reuters, at a public hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors asked the court to accept two emails sent to Italy by UK authorities.
The news agency reported that the emails originated from a separate London court case launched by the Nigerian government against JPMorgan Chase, claiming over $1.7bn for its role in the disputed oilfield deal.
The first is an email sent by a former Nigerian Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke Bello, to JPMorgan from the email address of a company owned by Aliyu Abubakar – a Nigerian oilman whom prosecutors allege paid $500m in cash as part of a bribe.
Adoke was said to have sent the bank copies of the resolution agreement regarding the oilfield acquisition.
The prosecutors said they considered it relevant to establish the relationship between Adoke and Abubakar.
Adoke was charged last year for allegedly receiving bribes to facilitate the deal but he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Abubakar’s trial will is set to start in coming weeks in Milan. He also denies any wrongdoing.
A second email, also seen by Reuters, is between two JPMorgan officials expressing doubts about transferring $1.1bn to two accounts at Nigerian banks.
Milan magistrates said at Wednesday’s hearing they considered the email significant as it shows there were doubts within the bank over the transfer, which a Swiss and a Lebanese lender had previously refused to carry out.
The Milan court will decide on February 3 whether to admit the two documents in the case, Reuters reported.
The defendants involved in the Milan case, including Eni’s current Chief Executive Officer, Claudio Descalzi, have all denied any wrongdoing.
While Milan prosecutors asked for jail sentences for all the defendants and fines for the two oil giants, lawyers for Eni and Shell asked for the companies to be acquitted.
The verdict is expected at the end of March.