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Italy Probes Eni, Saipem in Bribe Charges

Source: Reuters 6/22/2011, Location: Middle East

Italian authorities have named oil company Eni and oilfield services firm Saipem in a probe of alleged bribe-taking involving Iraq and Kuwait contracts, judicial sources said.

Milan prosecutors are investigating whether Italian engineering and construction companies bribed Eni and Saipem executives to win subcontracts at Iraq's Zubair oilfield and Kuwait's Jurassic Field, the sources said. Eni won contracts for the two oilfields in 2010. The sources said the probe centered on charges of international corruption. In a statement, Eni and Saipem said they were being investigated for responsibility for any supervisory failures.

The companies "believe that their position will be shortly cleared, since they are offended parties in respect of the illicit conduct under investigation", the statement said. Eni owns 43 percent of Saipem. The sources said the probe began six months ago and stemmed from allegations made by Mario Reali, a former Eni executive. Those being investigated are Saipem Vice President Nerio Capanna, Eni manager Diego Braghi and three others, the sources said.

Eni and Saipem said those involved in the probe were a non-executive Eni manager responsible for procurement at its Eni Zubair Company. The Saipem employee is an executive responsible for the office in Fano, Italy, overseeing a Kuwait project, they said. The two executives' offices were searched "with reference to alleged crimes committed with third parties and related to the award of tenders", the statement said.

The sources confirmed a Corriere della Sera newspaper story on the probe, which said "Ansaldo" was among engineering and construction firms under investigation. A spokesman for power plant maker Ansaldo Energia was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for rail signalling company Ansaldo STS had no immediate comment.

Both companies are controlled by defence and aerospace company Finmeccanica. Eni shares were down 0.44 percent at 1136 GMT, while Europe's STOXX 600 Oil &Gas index was down 0.94 percent. Saipem was off 0.72 percent and Ansaldo STS was up 1.74 percent.

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