Italian court acquits two in Nigeria oil corruption case

MILAN (Reuters) – An Italian appeals court on Thursday overturned prison sentences against Nigerian Emeka Obi and Italy’s Gianluca Di Nardo for their role in a corruption case involving Eni and Shell in Nigeria.

In a decision taken behind closed doors but read to reporters afterwards, the three judges quashed the convictions and said there was no need to respond.

The prosecution itself had asked for the convictions to be overturned after a court acquitted the two energy groups in March in a long-running case involving the acquisition of a Nigerian oil field for around $ 1.3 billion. dollars.

The judges dismissed the charges against the companies and the defendants, saying there was no need to answer.

Obi and Di Nardo, both accused of being intermediaries and taking illegal bribes, were convicted in a 2018 expedited trial separate from the principal. They were both sentenced to four years in prison, but had not started serving them.

Under Italian law, an expedited trial, based solely on documents without hearing or witnesses, reduces sentences by a third.

“An unfair conviction by the court of first instance conditioned by a gross violation of the law,” said Obi’s lawyer Roberto Pisano, referring to the initial conviction.

Earlier this month, Italy’s Justice Ministry ordered an investigation into the conduct of two prosecutors in the main case involving Eni and Shell.

The three judges also lifted on Thursday the seizure orders of assets worth $ 98.4 million from Obi and more than 21 million Swiss francs ($ 23 million) from Di Nardo.

($ 1 = 0.9192 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Alfredo Faieta Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Mark Potter

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