Sawiris denies corruption allegations in Wind SpA deal

Sherine El Madany
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris denied Saturday any wrongdoing or involvement in the suspected corruption scandal over the acquisition of Italian mobile phone operator Wind SpA.

“I haven t been officially notified of any investigation by Italian police, Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom Holding, said in a press statement. “I can assure that the sale deal under investigation was conducted according to the law and international measures . and all dealings were documented.

Italian financial police announced Thursday that Rome prosecutors were investigating 11 people for corruption in the sale of Italy s third largest telecoms company Wind, including its Egyptian owner and the chief executive of Italian utility Enel.

The probe concerns consultancy fees that were allegedly paid during the sale of a majority stake in Wind, which Sawiris Weather Investments consortium bought in 2006 from Italian power company Enel SpA in a deal worth more than ?12 billion ($18.12 billion) including debt.

According to newswires, unnamed judicial sources revealed Thursday that Sawiris was under investigation along with Alessandro Benedetti, Sawiris former adviser on the purchase. Enel Chief Executive Officer Fulvio Conti is also being investigated. The probe focuses on transfer of more than ?90 million ($135 million) which prosecutors believe were kickbacks masked as consultancy fees.

“I am not aware of any violations carried out by any individuals in relation with this deal . Weather Investments will fully cooperate with the investigation, said Sawiris. He added that such deals – one of Europe s biggest leveraged buyouts – had to be based on international laws and could not be subject to any transgression whatsoever.

On the other hand, Enel said in a statement it had total solidarity, trust and full support for Conti. The sale of Wind took place on the basis of competitive offers and criteria of competition, transparency and nondiscrimination.

Enel added that Weather SpA, Sawiris s company, had been selected as the buyer because it was the highest bidder for Wind. It added that Enel had made no questionable payments to any advisers on the sale.

I have nothing to hide, Conti was quoted in the statement. And I remain determined to make clear that Enel and myself personally have nothing to do with the investigation s hypothesis.

News leaked that corruption allegations were linked to the defamation lawsuit Sawiris filed last year against Italian Channel Rai 3, accusing it of libel and slander acts.

Sawiris filed before the Tribunal of Rome on Oct. 5, 2007 a civil action for defamation against the program presenter, director and the airing station, for the harm caused by the false and defamatory contents contained in a program aired in May 2007 by Rai 3.

On the heels of the allegations, shares in market heavyweight Orascom Telecom – the fifth largest Arab mobile operator by market value – closed in the red on Sunday, slipping 2.7 percent to last trade at LE 83.01 before hitting as low as LE 80 during the session.

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