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Italian court orders asset seizure in Algeria graft case involving Saipem

Italian court orders asset seizure in Algeria graft case involving Saipem

A Milan court has ordered the seizure of assets worth 250 million euros ($268 mln) from three defendants caught up in an Algeria corruption case involving Italian oil services company Saipem, a court document showed.

A seizure order issued by a Milan judge on Oct. 9, and seen by Reuters, said the assets seized included six buildings in Manhattan belonging to Algerian businessman Farid Noureddine Bedjaoui, including three prime properties on Fifth Avenue.

In October Saipem and five people were ordered to stand trial on charges the oil services group had paid bribes to win contracts in Algeria.

Prosecutors allege that Saipem paid intermediaries almost 198 million euros to bag contracts worth 8 billion euros with Algeria's state-owned Sonatrach.

Saipem has said there are no grounds for the company to be held liable.

The seizure issued by the Milan judge covered the value of the bribes of 198 million euros plus 50 million euros in non-paid taxes on that sum, the document showed.

Besides Bedjaoui, the other defendants named in the order are former Saipem manager Pietro Varone and Samir Ouraied, a fiduciary of Bedjaoui.

A lawyer for Varone said assets belonging to her client had already been seized, adding however the order had been appealed.

Ouraied's Italian lawyer told Reuters no asset seizure had been carried out, while it was not possible to get a comment from Bedjaoui's lawyer.

All three defendants have denied any wrongdoing.

The case is due to get under way on Dec. 2. ($1 = 0.9313 euros) (Reporting by Emilio Parodi, writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Tag(s) : #Politics

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