Algiers Bir Mourad Rais Court opened a judicial investigation in Sonatrach’s deal of purchasing Augusta oil refinery in the Italian island of Sicily at a financial cost of nearly $1 billion, which was owned by the American giant ExxonMobil, opening a new series of Sonatrach’s cases with Italy, and pays to ask about the secret of Sonatrach scandals with Italy.
Echorouk News channel informed sources related to the file as saying that the investigation is about violations that marred the process of concluding the deal between Sonatrach and the American oil company ExxonMobil which belonged to the former owner of this refinery that Sonatrach officially acquired on December 1, 2018, at $1B, during the supervision of the former General Manager, Abdelmoumene Ould Keddour.
The deal at the time included an addition to the refinery, 3 crude oil depots in each of Palermo, Naples and Augusta, in addition to a pipeline to transport oil between the refinery and warehouses, while the refinery capacity is 10 million tons annually, to become the second-largest refinery for Sonatrach, after those in the Skikda port (eastern Algeria) that have an annual capacity of 16 million tons.
About 17 months of Sonatrach’s acquisition of the refinery, it did not enter the production stage, forcing Sonatrach to start extensive maintenance work on it, as it borrowed in December 2019 $ 250 million from the Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) to finance the maintenance operations.
A few months ago, an American magazine specialized in the energy sector published a lengthy article in which it said that Sonatrach is obliged to replace oil refining equipment completely in the facility it bought in Sicily, Italy, which is compatible with the Saudi heavy crude that ExxonMobil, the former American owner of the refinery, from Aramco, Saudi Arabia, and confirmed that the Algerian crude Sahara Bland is characterized by being light and the refining equipment present in the refinery is not suitable for it at all, and therefore these installations must be completely changed.
By opening this front, Sonatrach will be on a new date with one of its cases related to Italy, given the series of Sonatrach-Saipem case that lasted for ten years and is still ongoing in Algerian and Italian courts, given that the Saipem case was ruled in the Algerian Judicial Council, and the Italian Saipem was informed that the sentences passed in 2016 are null and a new trial will be scheduled.
On the other side, a court that appealed the prosecution of the Italian Court of Milan a few weeks ago ruled that Saipem was acquitted of charges of bribing Algerian officials with Sonatrach and other officials, within the framework of what is known as the “bribery of 200 million euros” case, while Eni and its managers were excluded from the appeal, which means that the previous ruling of acquitment in their favour has become final.