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Wednesday
Jul272016

Report: Panama Papers show role of shell companies in Saipem Algeria bribes

The law firm at the center of the Panama Papers leak may have helped facilitate an alleged multi-million corruption scheme tied to Sonatrach contracts won by Saipem. 

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said  Mossack Fonesca helped Farid Bedjaoui create a Swiss bank account that was used to purchase "shelf" companies in the Caribbean. 

Italian prosecutors allege that Bedjaoui, the nephew of a former Algerian foreign minister, orchestrated about $275 million in bribe payments to help Saipem win $10 billion worth of pipeline contracts from Algeria's national energy company, Sonatrach, the New York Times said

Shell companies purchased through the Swiss account were allegedly used to divert graft payments to other parties including payments to family members and associates of former Algerian energy minister Chekib Khelil, the ICIJ said. 

Bedjaoui has been dubbed "Mr. Three Percent" for the alleged standard fee he collected from inflated oil and gas contracts. 

According to the documents seen by the ICIJ, Mossack Fonesca also helped create 12 of the 17 companies currently being investigated by Italian authorities for their alleged involvement in corruption related to Algeria oil and gas deals. 

Saipem and Mossack Fonesca have denied any wrongdoing. 

Bedjaoui is currently listed as wanted by Interpol and has been charged with helping facilitate corruption.

Bedjaoui has denied wrongdoing. 

Mossack Fonesca reported Bedjaoui to officials in the British Virgin Islands in 2013 but continued processing paper work for one of his businesses until at least late 2015, the ICIJ said. 

Italy's Eni, the parent company of Saipem, said in 2014 that a forensic audit showed that Saipem did not pay bribes to win the Sonatrach contracts. 

In Feburary, an Algerian criminal court sentenced half a dozen people to prison terms for corruption charges connected to the alleged scheme. 

Former Sonatrach upstream vice-president Belkacem Boumediene was sentenced to five years in prison while former Sonatrach CEO Mohamed Meziane received a suspended five year sentence. 

Saipem said in Feburary it will appeal a $37,000 fine against Saipem Contracting Algérie in connection with the corruption trial.

From the Petro Global News Wire Service © 2016 All Rights Reserved