A scheme to purchase an oil field from a corrupt Nigerian former minister of oil was devised and approved at Royal Shell’s headquarters in The Hague. The complete file landed on journalist Harm Ede Botje’s desk. A reconstruction.

A raid on Shell’s headquarters, two former UK Secret Service MI6 agents negotiating with a corrupt Nigerian former minister of oil affairs on behalf of Shell, a former Russian ambassador intermediary in talks with the FBI, a fugitive Nigerian ex-Minister of Justice, millions of dollars in kickbacks for employees of the Italian oil company Eni, bags of Nigerian Nairas being divided among politicians and businessmen. They seem the right ingredients for a riveting thriller, but these events actually happened.

It is the story of a major corruption case during the purchase of an oil field in the Gulf of Guinea. Royal Shell played a key role: at the headquarters in The Hague the group created a paper reality. The upper echelons of the company set up...