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In Algeria, Eni investigation snares ex minister

Chekib Khelil, Algeria’s former energy minister, is wanted for corruption (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)Algeria’s former energy minister is wanted on an international arrest warrant for alleged corruption following accusations of bribery involving Italian energy giant Eni.

Chekib Khelil, 74, along with eight others including his wife and two sons, is wanted for ‘corruption, abuse of authority and belonging to an international criminal network,’ Algeria’s public prosecutor said Monday.

In February, the CEO of Eni SpA, Paolo Scaroni, was placed under investigation by Italian authorities for bribes allegedly paid in Algeria by Eni’s subsidiary Saipem SpA.

Saipem’s CEO Pietro Franco Tali resigned in December last year after the company disclosed an investigation into alleged payments to Sonatrach, the Algerian state-owned oil company.

Saipem is an oil and gas drilling and services contractor.

Khelil is well known internationally. He served as head of the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries from 2001 to 2008.

Starting in February, Algeria’s public prosecutor began looking at links between Eni and Khelil.

He was born in Morocco but became a U.S. citizen after earning a PhD in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University in 1968.

He joined Sonatrach in Algeria in 1971.

Khelil gained Algerian citizenship and eventually rose to be energy minister. In that role for ten years, he also headed Sonatrach. He was forced to resign as minister in 2010 in a scandal about the expanded role he granted to foreign oil companies.

When Algeria prosecutors started the Eni-related investigation in February this year, he reportedly fled to the U.S.

There’s no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Algeria.

Prosecutor Belkacem Zeghmati said, ‘It is true that he has American nationality. But for us, he is an Algerian. It is enough for him to leave the United States and everything will depend on the country he goes to.’


Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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