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Dutch court acquits Shell on majority of Niger Delta charges

Four out of five oil pollution charges thrown out

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Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell has been acquitted of four out of five charges brought against it over oil pollution in the Niger Delta region, Nigeria.

The landmark case was initiated by four Nigerian farmers and Friends of the Earth who had alleged that oil spills caused by Shell’s leaking pipelines had poisoned their fish ponds and farmland. The case was linked to spills in Goi, Ogoniland; Oruma in Bayelsa State and a third in Ikot Ada Udo, Akwa Ibom State.

"This court has established that four oil spills were not caused by defective maintenance by Shell but by sabotage from third parties," the court said, adding that according to the domestic law in Nigeria, the firm was not responsible for damage caused in this way.

However, in a ruling on Wednesday the court did find the oil major’s subsidiary – Shell Nigeria – to be culpable of one charge of pollution, ordering it to pay compensation to one of the Nigerian farmers. The level of compensation will be ruled on at a later hearing date.

The court said that in the fifth case Shell Nigeria neglected its duty of care adding that the company "could and should have prevented this sabotage in an easy way."

A spokesperson for the Friends of the Earth told CFOWorld that they were disappointed with the ruling and intended to launch an appeal.  


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