SEC says Italy's Eni agrees to settle accounting charges in Algeria graft case

MILAN, April 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. SEC said on Friday Italian oil and gas group Eni had agreed to settle charges it breached corruption accounting rules over “improper” payments by a former unit in Algeria.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement Eni had “violated the books and records and internal accounting controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with an improper payment scheme” in Algeria by former unit Saipem.

Eni, whose ADRs are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, did not immediately reply to email messages for comment.

The SEC said Eni, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, had agreed to the entry of an order to cease and desist from violating the controls provisions and pay $24.5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.

The case revolves around allegations oil and gas contractor Saipem paid intermediaries about 198 million euros to secure contracts worth 8 billion euros with Algeria’s state-owned Sonatrach.

Earlier this year an Italian appeals court acquitted Eni and Saipem of corruption. There will be a third grade final judgment.

At the time of the allegations Saipem was 43% owned by Eni. Today it is jointly controlled by Eni and state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

Reporting by Emilio Parodi and Stephen Jewkes Editing by Sonya Hepinstall