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Congo probe reaches Eni’s Descalzi

Claudio Descalzi, chief executive officer of Eni SpA,. Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg
Claudio Descalzi, chief executive officer of Eni SpA,. Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg

Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi is under investigation over a potential conflict of interest in Congo Brazzaville.

The Italian company said Descalzi had received a notice from the Milan Public Prosecutor alleging he had failed to disclose links between Eni Congo and Petro Services.

An Italian transparency NGO, Re:Common, has previously highlighted apparent links between Descalzi and Petro Services. The NGO has said Petro Services shares a PO box with Elengui, a company owned by Descalzi’s wife, Marie Magdalene Ingoba.

Eni said it had concluded an investigation into these accusations a year ago. The probe had been referred by the Control and Risk Committee and the Board of Statutory Auditors to external independent consultants. The company said the finding had “excluded any breaches and behaviours in favour or against Eni, aimed at benefitting service suppliers (and in particular Petro Service, for the relevance of this case.)”

Re:Common asked questions on the Petro Services affair at Eni’s shareholders’ meeting in May 2018. The group quoted Eni officials as having said, at the 2017 meeting, that there were no contractual ties with Petro Services or the OSM Group to date. OSM was in a joint venture with Petro Services.

At that point the statement was correct, with the last invoice to Petro Services having been paid in February 2017. Up to that point, though, Eni Congo had paid around $104 million to the company.

Eni has said that tenders won by Petro Services had taken place competitively and followed tendering procedures.

“I firmly reject the alleged accusation. It is without any foundation. The transactions between Eni Congo and the company [Petro Services] were never the subject of my consideration and decision, as fully outside my role,” said Descalzi. “I am totally certain that I have always behaved lawfully, in an honest way, in the interest of the company and of its shareholders. I am confident I will be able to demonstrate that, beyond any reasonable doubt.”

“Descalzi is the latest and most senior Eni executive that has been linked to the Congo probe,” Global Witness’ oil researcher Natasha White told Energy Voice. “This is the same prosecutor’s office that is working on the OPL 245 case in Nigeria, although the Congolese case has not reached the charges stage. There is a similar pattern to the Nigeria story, though, with local partners linked to politically exposed people and now conflicts of interest. We’ve seen repeated denials and subsequent backtracks or shifts in position. This news suggests these issues go right to the top of Eni’s management and should be very concerning for Eni’s investors.”

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