December 18, 2018 / 5:31 PM / 3 months ago

Italian judges say Saipem knew about, aided bribes in Algeria

MILAN, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Italian oil service group Saipem knew about and abetted in bribes paid to win contracts in Algeria worth 8 billion euros ($9 billion), judges at a Milan court said in a detailed ruling filed on Tuesday.

Saipem did not carry out “correct checks on intermediaries” in the bidding process to win the Algerian gas contracts, the judges said in comments contained in the written reasoning for a previous ruling.

Saipem declined to comment. It has previously denied any wrongdoing.

In September, former Saipem CEO Pietro Tali and the company were found guilty of paying middlemen about 198 million euros to secure contracts with Algeria’s state-owned energy firm Sonatrach in the period from 2007 to 2010.

Under Italian law, companies are responsible for the actions of their managers and can be fined if found guilty.

In the September ruling, the court acquitted Eni and its former CEO Paolo Scaroni. Saipem is controlled by Eni and state lender CDP.

Algeria has historically been an important market for Saipem and current CEO Stefano Cao has previously said he is keen to repair relations with the country.

In February, Sonatrach signed an agreement with Saipem to end legal disputes over four gas projects.

Saipem now has 45 days to file an appeal.

$1 = 0.8801 euros Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Additional reporting and writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Mark Potter

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