Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi is being investigated by Milan prosecutors for alleged corruption tied to the company’s 2011 acquisition of a Nigerian deepwater offshore block for $1.09 billion.
Italy-based Eni acquired a 50 percent stake and operatorship in the OPL 245 block in 2011. Royal Dutch Shell holds the other 50 percent stake.
Eni said all the money for the purchase went to the Nigerian government and Nigeria’s state-owned Malabu Oil and Gas.
The company denies any “illegal conduct” and said the money was not used to influence public officials or the purchase process.
Chief development of operations and technology officer Roberto Casula is also being preliminary investigated.
The probe comes after a British court allowed Milan prosecutors to freeze two bank accounts belonging to Emeka Obi that contain a combined $190 million.
Obi is thought to have served as an intermediary for the OPL 245 deal.
The prosecutors claimed the money may have been paid to corrupt public officials, the Global Post said.
Last year, Obi won a lawsuit against Malabu for allegedly failing to pay him $110 million for bringing Eni into the OPL 245 deal.
OPL 245 has estimated reserves of about 9 billion barrels of oil.
In a statement, Eni said it’s cooperating with the investigation and “is confident that the correctness of its actions will emerge during the course of the investigation.”
Italy-based Bank Akros said in a note to clients that the potential impact of the investigation could cost the company $646 million, or one percent of its market capitalization.