* Probe revolves around $11 bln contracts in Algeria
* Eni says company and CEO totally extraneous
* Former Saipem CEO resigned over Algeria probe
* Shares down 4.6 percent
(Adds details on probe, background)
By Manuela D'Alessandro
MILAN, Feb 7 Milan prosecutors have put Paolo
Scaroni, head of Italy's Eni Spa, under investigation
in a probe into alleged bribes paid to win contracts in Algeria
for Saipem SpA, in which Eni is the largest investor,
the company said.
Two judicial sources with knowledge of the situation had
earlier on Thursday told Reuters that Scaroni was being
investigated in a probe centering on contracts worth $11 billion
won by Saipem.
Saipem, Europe's biggest oil service group, is 43 percent
owned by Eni, the oil and gas major which is in turn controlled
by the Italian state. Eni is Italy's biggest listed group.
"Eni acknowledges that the prosecutor has decided to extend
the investigation to include Eni and its chief executive
officer," Eni said in a statement.
"Eni and its CEO declare themselves totally unrelated to the
object of investigation," it said.
The company also said Scaroni's house and Eni offices had
been searched, confirming what the sources had said.
The investigation is into allegations that Saipem paid
bribes to secure a series of contracts in Algeria centering
around the Medgaz and MLE projects with state-owned energy group
The prosecutors allege that to secure the $11 billion worth
of contracts the two companies paid bribes of 197 million euros
to a Hong Kong company called Pearl Partners Limited.
The bribes regarded eight contracts awarded Saipem in the
Scaroni, who has been at the helm of Eni since June 2005, is
one of Italy's most prominent business executives. Prior to Eni,
he was in charge of the country's biggest utility Enel
and is currently also non-executive deputy chairman of the
London Stock Exchange.
Former long-standing Saipem CEO Pietro Franco Tali resigned
in December after it emerged that Milan prosecutors had opened
an investigation into the group's business in Algeria.
The probe also cost the job of Eni Chief Financial Officer
Alessandro Bernini, seen by many analysts as Scaroni's right
The latest developments come as Italian prosecutors pursue a
corruption investigation into an opaque series of loss-making
derivatives trades at Italy's No. 3 bank Monte dei Paschi di
Last week, Saipem shocked investors when its newly-installed
management slashed 2012 profit guidance and gave a grim outlook
for this year, triggering a 34 percent fall in its shares.
Italy's financial regulator subsequently asked its British
counterpart to probe a sale of Saipem stock a day before the
company had issued the warning, a source close to the Italian
Shares in Eni, which has extensive gas interests in Algeria,
Italy's biggest gas supplier alongside Russia, closed down 4.6
(Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Lisa Jucca,
David Holmes and Bernard Orr)