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Nigeria seeks Etete, Casula arrests over OPL 245 deal

Judge in Abuja issues warrants for arrest of former energy minister and current Eni executive, along with others

Warrants have been issued in Nigeria for the arrest of two former ministers and a clutch of industry executives, including one still with Italian major Eni, over the sale of offshore oilfield OPL 245 by Malabu Oil & Gas in 2011.

News of the arrest orders was initially released by Nigeria's Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Twitter on Wednesday.

Dan Etete, former petroleum minister, and ex-attorney general Mohammed Adoke, "are to be arrested anywhere they are found", the EFCC said in the tweet.

It said it followed a ruling by judge in the capital, Abuja.

The same judge, Justice D Z Senchi, also ruled that the Nigeria Police, Interpol and "any other law enforcement agency" should arrest Robert Casula - Eni's current head of technology and development - and a handful of others "anywhere they were found including outside jurisdiction of the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) High Court".

The EFCC said Casula and three other individuals - named as Raph Wetzels, Pujato Stefeno and Burrato Sebastiano - were due to appear before Justice Senchi on Wednesday but failed to show up.

"The EFCC had since 2017 pressed charges against Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Co. Ltd, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Eni Spa, Raph Wetzels, Casula Roberto, Pujato Stefeno, Burrato Sebastiano, Duazia Louya Etete (aka Dan Etete), Mohammed Bello Adoke, Aliyu Abubakar and Malabu Oil & Gas Limited," it said.

"All the defendants declared wanted had repeatedly failed to appear before the court.

"In view of their persistent absence in court, the EFCC had through its counsel, Aliyu Yusuf, brought a motion ex parte praying the court for a warrant of their arrest, and an order for leave to execute the warrant outside of the jurisdiction of the court."

An Eni spokesman said the company had noted the decision of the court to issue the arrest warrants of arrest.

"Eni, and by extension its personnel, have always co-operated with any regulatory investigation and these warrants seem to have originated from the failure by the Nigerian Judicial Authorities to notify and serve the pending proceedings to the Eni managers as per international procedure for the last two years. The decision to seek warrants in this manner seems disproportionate and detrimental to the rights and reputation of these Eni managers."

The matter has been adjourned to 11 July for further hearing.

He added that the the matters are not related to an ongoing trial in the Milan Court concerning a deal that saw Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell and Eni enter deals earlier this decade with Malabu for OPL 245. Malabu was a company controlled by then-oil minister Etete.

The $1.3 billion deal has spawned legal cases spanning several countries and involving Nigerian government officials and senior executives at Shell and Eni.

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