On 27 January the Ministry of Justice and Security published several documents following a request on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). The request was submitted by our lawyer Barbara van Straaten on behalf of the four NGOs which she represents in the criminal case against Shell. These NGOs filed a criminal complaint against Shell and some of its former directors in relation to Shell’s acquisition of the Nigerian oil block known as OPL 245. Shell acquired the rights to the block in 2011, together with the Italian oil multinational Eni S.p.A. The complaint is filed on behalf of Prakken d’Oliveira’s clients, the non-governmental organisations Corner House (UK), Global Witness (UK), HEDA Resource Centre (Nigeria) and Re:Common (Italy).
The criminal investigation in this case, with the name Etosha, has been going on for years. In the spring of 2019, Shell announced itself that the Office of the Public Prosecutor had announced that it found sufficient grounds for a criminal prosecution. There have been no updates about the progress in this case since then. Italy also opened a criminal investigation into this matter against both Eni and Shell. This case has now been brought before the court in Milan and has resulted in the first convictions.
In the fall of 2018, the clients heard rumours that the Dutch Office of the Public Prosecutor would be ready to settle this case. The clients then sent a letter to Minister Grapperhaus (Justice) making an urgent appeal to bring this case before the court. A similar call was made by a number of Dutch non-governmental organisations. In the Netherlands, the Minister of Justice has the final say in approving or dismissing a proposal for a settlement (high transaction) in a criminal case. In his response to the letter, the Minister stated that this case was still under investigation by the Office of the Public Prosecutor and that it was not yet clear whether the case would end with a settlement. The Minister found that it would "not [be] appropriate in view of the (...) separation of powers, that I have any involvement or give any observations on the case at this stage".
However, the documents that have now been disclosed show another picture. It seems that there were numerous contacts between some of the highest officials at the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Minister in relation to this case during the summer of 2018. Agendas and invitations for meetings show that this case is (among others) mentioned under the heading 'high transactions'. This seems to imply that the possibility of a settlement was discussed after all during that time. The disclosed documents from the FOI-request can by found here. The disclosure also lead to questions in Parliament, which can be found here (including answers).
Our clients will continue their investigation into this matter. They continue their support for the complaint that was already filed and maintain their efforts to bring this case before a Dutch court.
For previous communications about this case click here.