Eni SpA Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi was acquitted of corruption charges by a Milan court in a case involving $1.1 billion in payments in a Nigerian oil deal, capping a three-year trial. Italian prosecutors had sought an eight-year jail term for the executive.
Several former executives of Eni and Royal Dutch Shell Plc were also cleared in the trial, including Malcolm Brinded, who ran Shell’s exploration and production division at the time.
Prosecutors in the case charged that executives involved in the 2011 deal to secure Offshore Oil Prospecting License 245 knew money they deposited into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government would be disbursed as bribes. In 2018, two middlemen were found guilty of corruption in a separate trial.
The companies and executives accused have consistently denied any wrongdoing. Descalzi was reappointed to his position by the Italian government in April, his third mandate, which runs to mid-2023. The Treasury and Italy’s state-back lender are Eni’s biggest shareholders.
Descalzi is spearheading Eni’s energy transition to clean energy targeting zero emissions by 2050. Descalzi said at a parliamentary hearing last year that the company hasn’t suffered reputational damage from the case or any setbacks to its operational plans.
The ruling marks a setback for Nigeria’s current government, which came to power six years ago and joined the case as a civil party in 2018.