An Italian judge has decided to drop proceedings against a former senior Eni employee and others, including the current chief of a UK oil firm, for allegedly defrauding Eni over an oil cargo sale.
According to Reuters, judicial and legal sources said Judge Cristian Mariani, in a closed-door hearing in a Milan court on Wednesday, granted the requests of the defendants’ lawyers and said that the alleged crimes were possibly committed abroad and so did not fall within his jurisdiction.
The 2019 “White Moon” case involved a shipment of crude oil to the Italian energy company purportedly from Iraq, but which created panic within Eni over fears it could contain at least partially, Iranian crude targeted by U.S. sanctions.
Eni rejected the cargo, which it said it bought from Nigerian firm Oando, which in turn bought the oil from the London branch of Italian fuel trading company Napag.
Handling Iranian oil would have breached sanctions the United States reimposed in 2018 after quitting a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
At the end of an investigation lasting more than three years, Milan prosecutors had pushed for a fraud trial over the failed tanker deal.
The ruling closes the case for Massimo Mantovani, former chairman of Eni Trading & Shipping (ETS), Francesco Mazzagatti a former partner and former director of Napag, and Boyo Omamofe as former chief of Oando Trading. The same consequence applies to the three companies.
A spokesperson for Mazzagatti, now chief executive of Viaro, which took private London-listed North Sea oil producer RockRose in 2020, said he was pleased with the dismissal of the case.
“We have maintained from the start that the hearings are purely procedural and it is gratifying to see justice prevail in the Italian judiciary system after numerous irregularities in the due process,” he said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
For Mazzagatti alone, one last charge of bribery between private individuals remains outstanding.
Italy’s top court will have to rule in that regard on a request submitted by defence lawyers to move the case from Milan to Rome or Potenza.
Giuseppe Iannaccone, lawyer for Omamofe and the Oando company, said he was very satisfied with the outcome.
“My client had not had the slightest responsibility in the contested facts as he had simply been involved in a normal commercial transaction, which moreover took place in international waters,” Iannaccone said.
An Eni spokesperson said Wednesday’s decision concerns only elements identified by Milan prosecutors.
“Eni has long since filed complaints with other jurisdictions that would have jurisdiction in criminal matters according to today’s ruling,” he said, adding civil lawsuits for damages are continuing in the appropriate venues in Italy.