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Interpol, tracking down fugitive Farid Bedjaoui, gives jitters to shady “big-wigs”

By: Hassan Houicha / English version: Med. B.
Photo: Copyright
Photo: Copyright
 

International police organization “Interpol” is on the hot heels of runaway Algerian businessman Farid Bedjaoui who is wanted together with other big shots including former Algerian energy and mines minister Chakib Khelil in a widespread corruption and misappropriation of public funds probe which flabbergasted the national and international public opinions.

Farid Bedjaoui who was a close associate of Chakib Khelil is being tracked down by Interpol by virtue of warrants of arrest issued by both the Algerian and Italian justice in connection with a set of serious bribery and malpractice charges.

Farid Bedjaoui, an Algerian consultant who was educated in Montreal and occasionally resides there, is suspected of being a conduit for more than $200-million in suspicious payments, possibly bribes, from multiple multinational corporations in the oil and gas services sector, a joint investigation by The Globe and Mail and Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s business newspaper, has found.

Sources close to the investigations in Europe and Canada believe that SNC and the Italian oil services firm Saipem SpA relied on Mr. Bedjaoui, the nephew of former Algerian foreign affairs minister Mohammed Bedjaoui, to obtain contracts from Sonatrach.

Farid Bedjaoui is one of several foreign agents hired by SNC who have fallen under suspicion for allegedly paying bribes.

The blue-chip company, which is Canada’s largest engineering firm and is responsible for infrastructure projects from Africa to South America to China, is engulfed in a growing scandal over the lengths to which it went to obtain contracts.

SNC’s former chief executive, Pierre Duhaime, has been criminally charged with fraud and using falsified documents in connection with the company’s successful bid to build a

Sources close to the operation said that Swiss authorities had been examining alleged payments SNC made to companies controlled by Mr. Bedjaoui and came across similar allegedly suspicious payments to Mr. Bedjaoui’s companies from Saipem, a major Italian oil services company and a subsidiary of the country’s largest oil and gas producer, ENI SpA. Two weeks ago, investigators in Italy, Switzerland and France executed co-ordinated searches of homes and banks, including Farid Bedjaoui’s Paris apartment and an office of the Swiss private bank EFG.

Several Saipem executives are under investigation, including the construction unit’s recently suspended chief operating officer, Pietro Varone, who was so close with Mr. Bedjaoui that the two men launched a wine-making company together outside Naples.

In a statement, SNC acknowledged that Farid Bedjaoui was “involved” with several companies that it had hired in Algeria. Ms. Quinton did not respond to questions about when the company first contracted Mr. Bedjaoui and what work he did. Farid Bedjaoui’s website was recently shut down.

On it he had described himself as an investment adviser, philanthropist and a consultant who offers “strategic advice” in the oil and gas sector. He has been close with Algeria’s former energy minister, Chakib Khelil, who left his post in 2010 in a corruption scandal within Algeria.

Italian investigators have detailed in court documents that Farid Bedjaoui allegedly accompanied the former energy minister to a meeting in Paris with the chief executive of ENI SpA. The executive, Paolo Scaroni, told the Italian media Mr. Bedjaoui was introduced at the meeting as Mr. Khelil’s “special secretary.”

From 2000 to 2009, SNC entered into joint ventures with the state-run Sonatrach to build, among other things, natural gas processing plants, gas-fired power plants and even a small village for oil workers. A review of company announcements shows that it received at least $6-billion in Algerian contracts since it launched its strategic North African push.

Central to this scandal, law enforcement sources allege, was Farid Bedjaoui, an economics graduate from the Université de Montreal and a former student of the Montreal business school Hautes Études Commerciales.

Investigators say they suspect that  Farid Bedjaoui is one of the primary owners of a Dubai-based oil and gas subcontractor, the “Ouais” Group Engineering and Contracting, or OGEC, although his name does not appear on any publicly available incorporation records obtained by reporters. OGEC got a subcontract for the 2009 SNC-designed Sahara gas plant, and has got several lucrative contracts from the Italian company, Saipem.


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