LONDON — Dutch authorities reportedly wiretapped the telephone of Royal Dutch Shell’s chief executive Ben van Buerden last year as part of an investigation into a corruption scandal involving a Nigerian oil field.
Van Buerden is allegedly heard discussing “loose chatter” between “people we hired from MI6.”
The information emerged after a recording of the call was leaked to news organisations including the Financial Times. The call between van Beurden and his then-chief financial officer Simon Henry allegedly took place in February 2016, hours after Dutch investigators had visited Shell’s headquarters in the Hague.
Van Buerden is reported to have said: “Apparently they have been in my office for about three or four hours going through everything.”
He then discussed “OPL 245,” the Nigerian oil licence which the company had acquired for £1.05 billion ($US1.3 billion) in 2011.
“I have nothing on OPL 245, but anyway they managed to take one folder which they thought was of relevance … and apparently they have been in your office,” he said to Henry.
Shell said in a statement to the Financial Times: “We do not believe that there is a basis to prosecute Shell. Furthermore, we are not aware of any evidence to support a case against any former or current Shell employee.”
Business Insider also contacted Shell for comment.
The licence had been under investigation for two decades because the rights for OPL 245 were awarded to a company allegedly controlled by Dan Etete, Nigeria’s then petroleum minister, who allegedly received a huge windfall when Shell invested in the asset along with Italian firm EPI.
Van Buerden also allegedly said in the phone call:
- Shell’s own investigation had discovered “unhelpful” and “stupid” email exchanges among former MI6 agents who the firm had hired to help broker the Nigeria deal.
- He said: “There was apparently some loose chatter between … people we hired from MI6, who … must have said things like, ‘Wonder who gets a pay-off here?'”
- The potential fallout for Shell in the United States, where the company was facing a separate Nigerian corruption case.
On Monday, Shell admitted for the first time that it negotiated with Etete — a convicted money-launderer — having repeatedly denied the allegation, according to a BBC report. The admission came after emails were published showing direct negotiations between the two parties.
Investigators believe that £375 million of the sum Shell and EPI paid to acquire the oil field rights was laundered through a company controlled by Etete.
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