* Eni board has utmost confidence in CEO
* Italy due to propose Eni CEO for next 3 years
* Descalzi could be reappointed
(Adds Eni statement, Shell no comment, shares)
By Manuela D'Alessandro and Stephen Jewkes
MILAN, Feb 8 Italian oil major Eni has
backed CEO Claudio Descalzi after sources said on Wednesday
prosecutors had asked for him to be sent to trial over alleged
corruption in Nigeria.
"The Board of Directors confirms its total confidence...
Descalzi was not involved in any way in the conduct under
investigation," the state-controlled major said.
Earlier on Wednesday judicial sources said prosecutors had
asked for Descalzi, along with 10 other people, to stand trial
in a case revolving around the purchase of a Nigerian oilfield
by Eni and Royal Dutch Shell for about $1.3 billion.
The request comes at a delicate moment for Eni, just weeks
before the government proposes its CEO candidate for the group
for the next three years.
Descalzi, a veteran oilman who has refocused the group on
the job of finding oil and gas, was appointed by the government
of Matteo Renzi in 2014.
But Renzi stepped down as prime minister in December after
losing a referendum on constitutional reform, leaving political
Descalzi, who was head of exploration and production at Eni
before taking over the top spot, could be reappointed for a
The prosecutors in the case also asked for Eni and Shell to
be sent to trial, the sources said.
Under Italian law a company can be held responsible if it is
deemed to have failed to prevent, or attempt to prevent, a crime
by an employee that benefited the company.
Eni said its board was confident the group was free of any
involvement. Shell declined to comment.
The Italian inquiry is one of several under way into the
acquisition of OPL-245, including current cases in Holland and
In January a Nigerian court ordered the temporary forfeiture
of assets and the transfer of operations of the oilfield.
A court must now set a date for a hearing at which a judge
will decide whether to accept the prosecutors' request for a
trial or acquit the accused.
(Additional reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)