- Posted February 18, 2013 by
Italian energy firm ENI implicated in Algerian bribery scandal
An investigation into allegations of corporate corruption and bribery in Algeria has been widened by Milanese prosecutors to include the company ENI, prompting the recent resignation of the firm’s chief financial officer Alessandro Bernini, as well as the chief executive of the group’s offending subsidiary, Saipem.
ENI is Italy’s largest listed company and is state-controlled. It also enjoys its status as the leading foreign operator in Algeria, where Italy sources 30% of its gas.
The investigation by Milan prosecutors is an offshoot of a broader inquiry in Algeria over contracts worth hundreds of millions of euros. Eight contracts awarded to Saipem between 2007 and 2009 are under scrutiny in the investigation, with the collective value totalling $11 billion.
In February 2013, a warrant to search the premises of ENI chief executive Paolo Scaroni was issued, and was reportedly based on a meeting he had with the man alleged to have distributed bribes to win Algerian gas contracts for Saipem. The warrant was issued after Scaroni acknowledged a brief meeting with Farid Noureddine Bedjaoui, the Algerian politician at the centre of the scandal who allegedly distributed €198 million in bribes to win the contracts, though prosecutors have not accused the CEO of any wrongdoing.
Last week, prosecutors searched Scaroni’s home and offices, though no results or findings have yet been provided to the press.
Scaroni has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he has only met Bedjaoui on one occasion and solely for a few minutes. “He was introduced to me as the special secretary of the Algerian energy minister: he accompanied me, and I never saw him again”, Scaroni was quoted as saying.
Scaroni’s history however points to a potentially more sinister conclusion; in the 1990s, he pleaded guilty to bribery charges related to the Tangentopoli scandal that caused chaos for Italy's post-war political parties.