(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc referred a former vice president for sub-Saharan Africa Peter Robinson to the Dutch authorities, suspecting he may have committed crimes related to an asset sale in Nigeria.
The allegations of criminal misconduct by one of its employees comes at a difficult time for Shell. Europe’s largest energy company and several former executives, including Robinson, are already facing a criminal trial in Milan over an alleged bribery scheme related to the purchase of a Nigerian oil block called OPL 245.
The company denies any wrongdoing in that case, but while investigating those charges Shell discovered accounts in Switzerland and a company in the Seychelles in Robinson’s name, which it suspects were used to take kickbacks related to the sale of another block called OML 42, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
Robinson’s lawyer in the Milan case, Chiara Padovani, wasn’t immediately able to respond to a request for comment. She said last week that her client denies the accusations of corruption from the Italian prosecutors.
“Based on what we know now from an internal investigation, we suspect a crime may have been committed by our former employee,” Shell said in an emailed statement. “We were stunned and disappointed when we learned about this.”
The criminal referral against Robinson was filed last week, said the person with direct knowledge of the matter. It appears he acted alone and took strong measures to avoid detection within Shell including encrypting emails, and failing to report companies and accounts registered in his name that fell outside the company’s protocols on eliminating conflicts of interest, the person said.
Shell believes the allegations related to OML 42 and OPL 245 are unrelated, according to the statement.
“On OPL 245, we continue to believe, from our review of the prosecutor of Milan’s file and all of the information and facts currently available to us, there is no case to convict Shell or its former employees,” Shell said.
A bank account linked to Robinson was frozen by the Attorney-General in Switzerland amid an investigation by authorities across Europe into allegations of corruption in Nigerian oil-field deals, people familiar with the matter said last week.
The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office confirmed it had received requests for legal assistance from the Dutch and Italian authorities. The Italian request prompted the Swiss Attorney-General to freeze Robinson’s account pending further investigation, said one person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Several hundred million Swiss francs were frozen, the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported, citing people it didn’t name.
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