Shell and Eni paid $1.3 billion for oil rights in Nigeria. Whether the money was mostly a bribe is at the heart of one of the industry’s most dramatic criminal cases

A top oil executive walked into the marble lobby of an exclusive Milan hotel on a chilly winter night. His dinner date was a former Nigerian oil minister offering to sell one of Africa’s biggest untapped oil discoveries.

Eight years later, the question of whether the $1.3 billion paid for the license to that prized oil field was mostly a bribe is at the heart of one of the biggest bribery scandals the oil industry has ever seen.

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