March 13, 2018 / 4:47 PM / 2 months ago

Veolia opens internal investigation into Paris region water deal

* Inquiry into Paris area wastewater tender

* Veolia unit staff met with Italian bidders

* Le Monde reports Paris prosecutor starts inquiry

PARIS, March 13 (Reuters) - French water and waste group Veolia said on Tuesday it had opened an internal investigation after reports of attempted corruption related to a contract it won to manage wastewater in the area around Paris.

French daily Le Monde reported on Tuesday that Italian firm Passavant had filed a complaint with a Paris court alleging attempted corruption by two employees of OTV, a unit of Veolia.

The paper said the two OTV employees had offered Passavant 30 million euros not to file a legal challenge against Veolia’s winning of the wastewater contract for the Ile-de-France region.

“Our CEO Antoine Frerot has asked our compliance officer to launch an internal investigation into the comments and actions attributed by Le Monde to the OTV executives,” a Veolia spokeswoman said.

Veolia confirmed that meetings had taken place between the two OTV employees and the Passavant employees and said these encounters had taken place at the request of Passavant.

Veolia said Frerot had not been aware of these meetings.

“The Veolia group has more than 1,600 consolidated units and employs 163,000 people in 50 countries. OTV is one of these units,” Veolia said in a statement.

Le Monde also reported that the national financial prosecutor (Parquet National Financier, PNF) had launched an investigation into the affair.

A PNF spokesman declined to comment.

Veolia said it was not aware of a court investigation.

A lawyer for the head of Passavant, Italian entrepreneur Marco Schiavio, told Reuters that Schiavo had recordings of conversations dating back to 2015 showing that the OTV employees had tried to prevent him from filing a complaint.

The lawyer, Pierre-Alexandre Kopp, also said he would file a complaint with the French antitrust authorities about the case.

The dispute involves a 341 million euro contract to operate a wastewater treatment plant in Clichy-la-Garenne, north of Paris, which was awarded to Veolia unit OTV by the Syndicat interdépartemental pour l’assainissement de l’agglomération parisienne (Siaap).

Le Monde said Passavant had lost the tender despite offering a lower price and was planning legal action as a result.

Siaap could not immediately be reached for comment. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Simon Carraud, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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