Judge delays decision on Eni, Saipem Nigeria bribe deals

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    MILAN — An Italian judge has put back a decision on a request by Milan prosecutors to bar Italian energy group Eni and its subsidiary Saipem SpA from conducting business with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), an Eni lawyer said on Tuesday.

    The expected ruling is part of a probe by Milan prosecutors into bribery allegations related to construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Nigeria.

    The Milan probe is linked to an international investigation into alleged bribes of $180 million paid by the TSKJ consortium in the period 1994-2004 to obtain contracts worth more than $6 billion to build Nigerian LNG facilities.

    “There was no decision because the prosecutor’s office has presented documents from an American investigation in a (foreign) language which should be translated,” Eni’s lawyer Paola Severino told reporters after the hearing.

    “Because of this the judge has postponed the hearing to Oct 21,” she said.

    Lawyers for Eni and oilfield services group Saipem and prosecutors presented their positions to the judge on Monday.

    Eni and Saipem can appeal a ban which would be immediately effective and would prevent the two firms from signing contracts with NNPC and its subsidiaries, judicial sources have said.

    The Milan prosecutors are looking to see if Eni and Saipem had proper procedures in place to prevent the “offences involving international corruption charged to two former managers of (Saipem’s) Snamprogetti,” Eni said in notes in the company’s half-year statements published in August.

    The Italian oil company reiterated in the notes it was cooperating with the competent authorities.

    Oilfield service unit Snamprogetti, an Eni unit now controlled by Saipem, was part of the TSKJ group along with France’s Technip SA and Japan’s JGC Corp.

    The consortium was headed by former Halliburton Co unit KBR, which pleaded guilty in February to U.S. charges that it paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to secure four contracts to build and expand Nigeria’s Bonny Island LNG terminal.

    Reuters

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