The system, Justice, History

Knowing in order to deliberate: not to judge the judges but to provide a necessary account of the system

by Luca Rinaldi and Lorenzo Bagnoli


“First know, then discuss, then deliberate”. This was the advice of Italian Prime Minister and economist Luigi Einaudi in the most famous of his Prediche inutili (useless sermons): it is advice that provides the guiding spirit behind this project. Knowledge is the basis of any discussion and subsequent decision-making, be it judicial, political or opinion. In this case, the knowledge that is at issue is contained in the case file for the trial of Eni and Shell in Milan over their allegedly corrupt acquitition of a major Nigerian offshore oil field, known as OPL245. The companies and other defendants, who were charged with paying over $1.1 billion in bribes to Nigerian public officials, were fully aquitted in March 2021 in the Court of First Instance. The acquital is now under appeal.


The OPL 245 case has proved hugely controversial. Now that the entire case file is public, the obligation to understand, discuss and deliberate is paramount.


Regardless of the final conclusions of the judicial process – an appeal will start soon in Italy, prosecution is ongoing in Nigeria and an investigation is moving forward in The Netherlands on the same case – the documents in the OPL 245 case file provide numerous insights into how oil deals are put together and how oil companies operate. Among them:

– The clear link between the companies and the security services;
– The use of international commercial arbitration to pressurize countries to concede very favourable conditions for companies’ investments;
– The discrepancies between what the companies tell their shareholders and what company executive say internally;
– The discretion in how due diligence is implemented even when there is clear evidence that companies’ manager have to deal with very dubious characters or convicted criminals;
– The denial of evidence, even when in the public domain, as a strategy to handle companies’ reputational risk.


Therefore, by recovering Einaudi’s useless sermon, we are convinced that the importance of this project does not lie in a desire to review a first instance criminal trial that has been closed in favour of the accused (Justice works precisely because there are convictions and acquittals, otherwise it would be summary justice), but in the possibility of knowing in order to deliberate that every single citizen can and must exercise.