Global Witness said it has evidence that suggests $1.1 billion paid by Shell and Eni to the Nigerian government for oil work there was transferred to a company, Malabu Oil and Gas, that's controlled by former Nigerian Oil Minister Dan Etete. The advocacy group said Etete was convicted of money laundering by a French court in 2007.
Both companies said the payments went directly to the Nigerian government. Global Witness, however, states that Nigerian Attorney General Mohammed Adoke suggested both companies were fully aware the money would be transferred to Malabu.
"Something really stinks here," Global Witness Director Simon Taylor said in a statement.
His group states that if Adoke's assertions are true both companies may have knowingly violated anti-bribery legislation in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The European Union is considering legislation that parallels the Dodd-Frank Act passed in the United States in 2010. The U.S. measure requires energy companies to reveal what they've paid to foreign governments. Trade group American Petroleum Institute opposes the measure, saying it puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage when competing against state-owned companies that don't place significance on transparency.