In 1998, during the dying days of the corrupt Sani Abacha-led military regime in Nigeria, his petroleum minister awards an exploration licence for Africa’s biggest untapped oil and gas block, OPL245, which holds a quarter of all Nigeria’s proven reserves.

Years later, it is revealed that the minister, Dan Etete holds a significant stake in the company which got the rights. He is also convicted by a French court on unrelated money laundering charges.

In 2011, Shell and its Italian rival ENI teamed up and agreed to pay the Nigerian government $1.3 billion for the oil block. This is billions below its real value, but more than enough for Etete, whose company is promised $1.1 billion.

The fall-out from this deal, said to be one of the most corrupt in the history of the oil industry, has culminated in 2018 with a criminal trial in Italy in which Shell and ENI executives, Etete and others are in the dock.

This is our investigation:

The oil deal, the disgraced former minister, and $800m paid via a UK bank (The Observer, Mar 2017)

Malabu Scandal: How Shell used former British spies to gather intelligence while negotiating purchase of OPL 245 (Premium Times, Mar 2017)

Shell Knew (Apr 2017)
Our joint report with Global Witness on OPL245, based on leaked documents we obtained from one of our network members.

Shell corruption probe: New evidence on oil payments (BBC, Apr 2017)
We were pleased to have brought the BBC on board to amplify the Shell Knew story. The story aired on flagship programmes including the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and the BBC1 News at Ten.

EXCLUSIVE: What Shell CEO told colleague about $1.3 billion OPL 245 scandal (Premium Times [Nigeria], Apr 2017)

EXCLUSIVE: Nigeria sues JP Morgan, demands $875m (Premium Times, Dec 2017)
The Sunday Times business section – the UK’s best read business section – followed up our story.

UK court rules in favour of Nigeria govt (Premium Times, Dec 2017)
A UK court ruled that $85m proceeds from OPL245 frozen in the UK must be returned to Nigeria.

JP Morgan reveals UK cops gave go-ahead to transfer $875m to convicted money launderer (Apr 2018)


Posted by Lionel Faull

Lionel Faull began his career as a journalist at the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa before joining the country's pre-eminent non-profit investigations team, amaBhungane, in 2011. He has been working with Finance Uncovered since January 2017, joining as a full-time senior reporter a year later. His investigative interests include following the money flows behind mega-infrastructure procurement and natural resource exploitation, as well as exposing the professional enablers of grand corruption. Lionel has worked on several award-winning team investigations, including the GuptaLeaks in 2017, the Panama Papers in 2016, and lavish state spending on then-President Jacob Zuma’s private home in 2013. He has also freelanced for the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian in the UK.