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Nigeria withdraws $1bn claim against Eni

The Federal Government has concluded plans to withdraw civil claims totalling $1.1bn against Eni SpA, ending a long battle in Italian courts over allegations of corruption in an oil field deal.

The Ministry of Justice will waive the claims before Italy’s highest court “unconditionally” and “with immediate effect” no later than Nov. 17, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg, the county will also “irrevocably” waive the right to any further legal action in Italy against Eni, its affiliates, and current and past officers regarding rights for the field, known as Oil Prospecting License 245, or OPL 245.

Eni confirmed receipt of the letter and said in a statement that it was ready to consider, together with the government of Nigeria, the necessary steps for conversion of the prospective license to one that will allow the development of the oil block.

According to Bloomberg, the Ministry of Justice was not immediately able to respond to a request for comment.

Operations at the country’s oil block have been halted for more than a decade by a series of trials and competing legal claims.

The area is considered to be potentially one of the richest concessions in the country, with recoverable reserves of 560 million barrels, according to Eni’s estimates.

Whether Eni and its partner Shell Plc could finally begin to develop OPL 245 may depend on the resolution of other claims, including arbitration proceedings filed by Eni at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and litigation within Nigeria.

Eni, Shell, and some of their former and current managers had already been definitively acquitted last year in a criminal case in Milan, in which they were accused of knowing that much of the $1.1bn they paid to acquire OPL 245 would be distributed as bribes.

Even after that verdict, a civil suit continued, with Nigeria seeking combined compensation of $3.5bn from Eni and Shell, claiming the amount reflected the real value of the license purchased in 2011 by the two companies.

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