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25 July 2022

Charles Russell Speechlys helps defeat bribery prosecution in stunning victory in the Milan Court of Appeal

Charles Russell Speechlys helped secure the acquittal of Guy Colegate, a former employee of a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, in one of the most significant and high profile corruption trials in Italy, concluding a long-running case.

The Milan Court of Appeal has upheld the 2021 ruling acquitting all of the defendants in the case, including Mr Colegate as well as Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell and Italian oil major ENI. The defendants were alleged to have engaged in or contributed to an international bribe when Shell and ENI entered into a 2011 settlement of various disputes concerning the rights to a deepwater oil block off the coast of Nigeria.

The trial court acquitted all 15 defendants, determining there was no case to answer.  The Court of Appeal upheld that ruling - the strongest possible acquittal available in Italy - after the Deputy Attorney General withdrew an appeal which had been made by the Italian Public Prosecutor.

The Charles Russell Speechlys team was led by Rhys Novak, Partner, with support from Caroline Greenwell, Partner, and Senior Associate, Stephanie Duncan. The team worked closely with local Milan counsel, Giuseppe Bianchi and Nicoletta Parvis, as well as other firms including Debevoise & Plimpton, Slaughter & May, McDermott Will & Emery and Herbert Smith Freehills (who represented Shell and the other former Shell employees).

Rhys Novak, Partner, comments:

“This decision draws to a close a five year-long prosecution, possibly the global oil industry’s most high-profile corruption trial ever. The team here – Caroline Greenwell and Stephanie Duncan - are delighted to have played a key part in finally bringing an end to this long-running matter for our client and clearing his name. Many thanks to Guy’s Italian Counsel, Giuseppe Bianchi and Nicoletta Parvis, for helping achieve this fantastic result.”

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