In relation to foreign bribery offences, the Italian authorities have conducted several investigations and prosecutions in recent years, the most significant of which are the following.
The Oil-for-Food programme
With respect to the mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food programme, on 10 March 2009 the Milan court of first instance sentenced three Italian individuals acting, directly or indirectly, for an Italian oil company to two years’ imprisonment for the charge of foreign bribery, under the assumption that they paid bribes to officials of a state-owned Iraqi company. On 15 April 2010, the Milan Court of Appeal acquitted all co-defendants owing to the charges being time-barred.
Nigeria Bonny Island
The Nigeria Bonny Island case concerns an investigation conducted by the Milan Prosecutor’s Office against the companies ENI SpA and Saipem SpA in relation to the offence of foreign bribery allegedly committed by the companies’ officers (in the frame of the international consortium Tskj, involving the US company KBR-Halliburton, the Japanese Igc and the French Technip), and allegedly consisting of significant payments made to Nigerian public officials in the period 1994 to 2004 to win gas supply contracts.
On 17 November 2009, the Milan judge for the preliminary investigations rejected the prosecutors’ application for applying to ENI SpA and Saipem SpA the pretrial ‘interim measure’ of prohibition to enter into contracts with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, owing to lack of Italian jurisdiction. The case against ENI SpA was subsequently dismissed, and on 5 April 2012, the case against five officers of Saipem SpA was also dismissed because of the time bar.
However, in July 2013 the company Saipem SpA was sentenced by the Milan court of first instance to a fine of €600,000 and confiscation of €24.5 million, pursuant to Legislative Decree No. 231/2001. In February 2015, the conviction of Saipem SpA was confirmed by the Milan Court of Appeal, and in February 2016 the Court of Cassation issued the final judgment of conviction against Saipem SpA.
The Finmeccanica-AgustaWestland case concerns a prosecution conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office of Busto Arsizio (an area close to Milan) against the companies Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland and their top managers in relation to the offence of foreign bribery allegedly committed in 2010 in connection with the supply to the Indian government of 12 helicopters.
In 2014, the prosecutors discontinued the investigations against Finmeccanica in the light of the assessment that the company was not involved in the alleged wrongdoing and had implemented adequate compliance programmes to prevent corruption offences. In the same period, AgustaWestland SpA and AgustaWestland International Ltd entered into a plea bargain with the Prosecutor’s Office. On 9 October 2014, the court of first instance of Busto Arsizio acquitted the top managers of both companies from the charge of foreign corruption, and sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment for the different charge of tax fraud.
In April 2016, the Milan Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal of the two managers and sentenced them to respectively four years, and four years and six months’ imprisonment. In December 2016, the Court of Cassation annulled the aforementioned conviction, and ordered the case to be retried before the Milan Court of Appeal, which acquitted the two managers on 8 January 2018.
New prosecutions for alleged foreign bribery are currently pending against the companies ENI, Saipem and their managers, in relation to the adjudication of licences or public tenders in Nigeria and Algeria. The following are particularly noteworthy:
On November 2013, the Milan Prosecution’s Office started a new criminal investigation against the company ENI SpA, its top managers, the former minister of petroleum of Nigeria and some Italian and foreign individuals, in relation to the alleged offence of bribery of Nigerian public officials linked to the Nigerian government granting subsidiaries to ENI and Shell an oil-prospecting licence for an oil field located in the offshore territorial waters of Nigeria.
The prosecutors concluded the investigations in December 2016, also adding the company Shell and some of its managers to the list of suspects. In February 2017, the prosecutors requested a committal for trial for all suspects, and in December 2017 the Milan judge for the preliminary hearing issued a decree of committal for trial for all suspects, with the trial starting in March 2018, which is currently pending. Two defendants who opted for the summary trial were sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in September 2018, and appelate proceedings are currently pending.
The Milan Prosecution’s Office started a criminal investigation a few years ago against the companies ENI SpA and its subsidiary Saipem SpA, some of their top managers and foreign agents, in relation to the alleged offence of bribery of Algerian public officials, with respect to the adjudication of seven tenders in Algeria in the period 2007 to 2010.
On 2 October 2015, the preliminary hearing Milan judge acquitted ENI and its top managers on all charges and committed to trial Saipem SpA and its top managers, and the foreign agents, for international corruption and tax fraud. The acquittal of ENI and its managers was subsequently annulled by the Court of Cassation in February 2016, subsequent to an appeal made by the prosecutors, and on 27 July 2016, they were all committed to trial.
The trial before the Milan court of first instance ended in September 2018 with the acquittal of ENI and its top managers, and with the conviction of Saipem and its top managers and agents, to sentences up to five years and six months’ imprisonment.
In 2015 the Prosecutor’s Office of Varese started a new investigation against AgustaWestland, and its managers, in relation to the offences of international corruption and tax fraud, allegedly committed in the period 2009 to 2011, in connection with the awarding to AgustaWestland of a public tender for the supply of helicopters to the Algerian government. The case was dismissed by the judge for the preliminary hearing in January 2018.
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