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Former Eni chief executive Paolo Scaroni. Image courtesy of the Russian Government/Wikimedia Commons.

Italian prosecutors investigating Eni’s 2011 purchase of a Nigerian oilfield allege that at least $500 million dollars used to pay for the asset was used to bribe local officials.

Eni, Italy’s state-owned upstream, paid $1.1 billion for a 50 percent stake and operatorship in the OPL 245 block in 2011. Royal Dutch Shell holds the other 50 percent stake.

Shell is not under investigation.

The prosecutors allege that as much as $533 million was used to bribe local politicians, intermediaries and other people connected to the purchase, Reuters said.

Eni’s former chief executive Paolo Scaroni and current CEO Claudio Descalzi are also under investigation for alleged international corruption related to the deal. Neither of the men have been charged.

Eni, Scaroni and Descalzi deny any wrongdoing.

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.

In September, 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.

Production at OPL 245 is projected to being in 2016.

The field holds an estimated reserve of about 9 billion barrels of crude oil.

Neither Eni nor Shell have commented on whether the investigation will impact the field’s start up or production.

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Republished with permission by the FCPA Blog News Service