Italian prosecutors drop Congo case against Eni CEO

QatarEnergy joins three-way consortium to explore Lebanon offshore gas
Eni Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi attends a signing ceremony as QatarEnergy joins TotalEnergies and Eni to explore Lebanon's offshore oil and gas, in Beirut, Lebanon January 29, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

MILAN, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Milan prosecutors do not plan to pursue a case against the head of Italian energy group Eni (ENI.MI) over oil permits granted in Congo Republic, they said on Wednesday.

The magistrates formally requested the dismissal of a charge against Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi for alleged failure to declare a conflict of interest.

They also asked that charges of alleged undue inducement be dropped against Descalzi's wife, Marie Madeleine Ingoba, and six other people including former Eni executives.

A statement from the prosecutors said that the main alleged crime in the case had been changed from bribery to undue inducement, which will be time-barred on March 18. The crime of failure to declare a conflict of interest is already time-barred.

"No surprise, I was certain of her absolute correct behaviour," Ingoba's lawyer Davide Steccanella told Reuters.

Eni also welcomed the decision, saying that it never believed that Descalzi had failed to give due notification of a conflict of interest.

"Eni CEO's non-involvement in the allegations made long ago by the public prosecutor is now confirmed," the company added.

In March 2021 a judge in a Milan court accepted Eni's offer of an 11.8 million euro ($12.7 million) payment to settle the Congo investigation.

The invetsigation, launched in 2017, revolved around allegations that, to win the renewal of oil licences in Congo Republic, Eni had agreed to sell stakes in the licences to a company with shareholder including public officials in the African nation.

Eni has said it had no role in the allocation of licences or in the Congo Republic government's choice of local partner.

After the settlement, the group said the deal did not represent an admission of guilt by the company but an initiative aimed at ending the judicial process. ($1 = 0.9331 euros)

Reporting by Emilio Parodi Editing by Keith Weir and David Goodman

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