Probe into possible SNC bribes widens to Algeria -newspaper

Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:36pm GMT

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* SNC involved in year-long scandal over mystery payments

* Investigators focusing on Algerian agent, say papers

OTTAWA Feb 21 (Reuters) - Swiss investigators probing whether SNC Lavalin Inc paid bribes in Libya are now looking at the Canadian engineering and construction company's dealings in Algeria, a newspaper said on Thursday.

SNC, which operates in more than 100 countries, has been at the center of an ethics and corruption scandal for more than a year after it revealed it had uncovered tens of millions of dollars in mysterious payments.

The company's former head of construction was charged in Switzerland last November on allegations of money laundering and corruption in relation to payments made in Libya.

Canada's Globe and Mail - working with Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore - said Swiss investigators were focusing on an agent for the SNC in Algeria and how he may have helped secure contracts for it and Italy's Saipem SpA with state energy company Sonatrach.

It said the agent - Farid Bedjaoui - was suspected of being a conduit for more than C$200 million ($196 million) in "suspicious payments" for many international oil and gas services providers. Saipem is controlled by Eni SpA

Earlier this month Milan prosecutors put Eni SpA chief executive Paolo Scaroni under investigation in a probe into alleged bribes paid to win contracts in Algeria for Saipem. A warrant to search his premises was based on a meeting he had with Bedjaoui.

Last December, Saipem's chief executive resigned after news broke that prosecutors were looking into alleged corruption regarding contracts in Algeria.

In January 2013, a Canadian police document said a son of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi allegedly received 120 million euros ($162 million) in bribes for giving major contracts in Libya to SNC-Lavalin.

In November 2012, the former chief executive of SNC-Lavalin was arrested on three fraud-related charges.

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