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A Milan court indicted on Wednesday Italian oil major Eni, oil services group Saipem and former Eni chief executive Paolo Scaroni, sending them again to stand trial over bribes Saipem had allegedly paid in Algeria to obtain oil and gas contracts, Reuters Italia reports, citing judicial sources.
Apart from the two companies and the ex Eni boss, the oil major’s former head for North Africa, Antonio Vella, and several others will stand trial for international corruption, which is set to begin on December 5, 2016, the Italian court ruled today.
According to prosecutors, Saipem – in which Eni still holds a substantial stake of around 30 percent – has been involved in the payment of 197 million euro (US$217 mln) in bribes to secure seven contracts in Algeria worth a combined 8 billion euro.
Paolo Scaroni served as Eni’s chief executive between 2005 and 2014, while the alleged corruption events are assumed to have taken place in 2010.
In October 2015, Scaroni, Vella and Eni were acquitted by an Italian judge from the same charges, but a higher court overturned the ruling in February 2016 and sent the case back to prosecutors for further examination.
Earlier this week, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a fresh Panama Papers series investigation, according to which Mossack Fonseca had created 12 out of the 17 companies that are being investigated in Italy for the alleged bribes a middleman had paid to help Saipem get the Algerian deals.
Prosecutors in both Italy and Algeria continue their investigation into the alleged bribery.
Saipem, which has always claimed to cooperate fully with authorities, saw an Algerian court fine one of its subsidiaries in February 2016 in another corruption case linked to equipment supplies for Algerian company Sonatrach. Back then Saipem said it would appeal the ruling, denying wrongdoing.
All defendants in Wednesday’s Italian court ruling have also always denied they had taken part in illicit deals.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.