The trial of multinational oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni, over their alleged involvement in Nigeria has suffered a setback.

The trial of Shell and Eni executives which had been due to start on March 5, will be transferred to another court in Milan, delaying the proceedings, according to legal sources who confided in Reuters.

Earlier this week, the Milan tribunal informed lawyers that the court which had been due to hear the trial had too many cases and could not guarantee that it would do so in a reasonable period of time, the sources told Reuters on Friday.

The case involves the 2011 purchase by Eni and Shell of Nigeria’s OPL-245 offshore oilfield - one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks - for about $1.3 billion.

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Milan prosecutors allege bribes were paid to win the licence to explore the field, which has never entered into production.

All the accused have denied any wrongdoing.

The court is expected to set the new trial date on Monday, the sources said.

A Milan judge ruled in December that the companies, along with present and past executives, would face trial.

The Italian inquiry is one of several into the acquisition of OPL-245, including cases in the Netherlands and Nigeria.

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