Dec 25, 2019 News
By Kiana Wilburg
With the Government of Guyana due to collect its first three cargoes of oil from the Stabroek Block in two months’ time, a process was initiated last week for a company to purchase the crude. Out of nine companies invited for face-to-face bidding, the Energy Department announced yesterday that Shell Western Supply and Trading Limited (SWSTL), which is based in Barbados, has emerged the winner.
According to the Energy Department, the subsidiary of Shell, which is the third-largest company in the world based o
n 2018 revenues, won the bid on account of a number of factors. These include a competitive pricing that limits the Government’s exposure to market uncertainty; the size, scale and global reach of its trading operations; the company’s high level of integration between Upstream, Trading and Downstream; Shell’s strong foothold in the Latin American markets and the size and scale of their shipping and storage operations in the region, allowing for multiple options on the Liza crude commercialization; and the range of new grades Shell recently introduced into the market.
The Department also took into consideration Shell’s willingness to share critical refinery information which it asserts Guyana needs in order to understand the Liza crude behaviour. Kaieteur News was also informed via a statement from the department that Shell’s readiness to support it in operating these cargoes, while it is strengthening its structures and in-house crude commercialization human resources, was also a determining factor.
To the rest of the world, and perhaps, even to the Energy Department, Shell portrays itself as an upstanding company with strong anti-corruption values. But research conducted by Kaieteur News shows that this very company Guyana has now struck a deal with, is embroiled in the industry’s “biggest corruption scandal” and is currently on trial for the said matter.
GLOBAL WITNESS EXPOSES
Armed with some damning pieces of evidence, international Non-Governmental Organization, the Global Witness was able to reveal to the rest of the world how Shell participated in a vast bribery scheme for one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks, known as OPL 245.
In 2011, the Global Witness reported that Shell and Italian Oil Company Eni paid over US$1.1 billion in a murky deal for this lucrative asset located off the coast of Nigeria. Following a lengthy investigation by the NGO it was able to access documents showing that this money for the rights to exploit the country’s natural resources did not go to benefit the Nigerian people as it should have done.
Instead, it went to convicted money launderer and former oil Minister, Dan Etete, who had awarded himself ownership of the block in 1998 via a company he secretly owned, Malabu Oil and Gas. Global Witness in a special report said that for six years, Shell has denied it did anything wrong, and said it only paid the Nigerian government in securing rights to the block.
In 2015, Shell’s CEO Ben Van Beurden responded to the allegations by stating the payments were “morally OK” and “in accordance with the law of Nigeria and international practice”. However what this carefully worded statement does not say is that Shell executives knew the money would go to Malabu and Etete, and was then likely to flow to some of the most powerful people in the country.
In February 2016 as well, Global Witness reported that Shell’s headquarters were raided by 50 police in a joint Dutch–Italian investigation into the deal. Global Witness was able to document the details of a phone call between Shell CEO Van Beurden and the then Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry soon after the raid, as their phone lines were wiretapped by Dutch authorities.
Van Beurden suggested that Shell should not disclose the raid to shareholders, saying to Henry: “The last thing you want of course is some sort of request to issue a stock exchange release when there is nothing to be said other than that we are being asked to provide information.” He also told Henry: “don’t volunteer any information that is not requested” to police investigating the OPL 245 deal.
The Global Witness stated that the money paid for the block equals more than the African nation’s 2016 health care budget. It is also one and a half times what the United Nations says is now needed to respond to the current famine crisis. Research indicates that approximately 8.5 million people in Nigeria are in need of humanitarian assistance while 5.1 million Nigerians are malnourished.
The deal which allegedly paved the way for billions to be siphoned off to agents and middlemen in corrupt payments has also sparked law enforcement inquiries in six other countries.
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