Riyadh, Seoul eye trade expansion

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Updated 06 March 2015

Riyadh, Seoul eye trade expansion

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has called on Saudi and Korean businesspeople to diversify commercial cooperation with an emphasis on nuclear energy, renewable energy, education and health care.
Park said she hoped the two countries would drive the development of the energy industry over the next 20 years. She was speaking at a crowded Saudi-Korean Business Forum here.
The high-profile gathering was attended by several top Saudi and Korean officials, and 300 business leaders from both countries. These included Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, minister of commerce and industry; and Ibrahim Al-Assaf, minister of finance.
Abdullatif A. Al-Othman, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA); Korean Ambassador Kim Jin-soo; Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers; and Park Youngmaan, chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, were also present.
Park also held separate talks with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company.
She met members of the Korean community and answered their questions in a separate session at a local hotel. Later on Wednesday afternoon, the South Korean president met with Hashim Abdullah Yamani, chief of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, who has been leading Saudi Arabia’s plans to construct nuclear power plants.
The Korean ambassador told Arab News that “a total of 12 agreements — both public and private sector — have been signed so far.” This includes a joint study on water desalination, and further agreements in the construction and automobile industries.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and POSCO Engineering and Construction, an affiliate of the South Korean steel giant, signed an MoU to help the Kingdom develop its own car industry. The deal could be worth around SR4.8 billion. There is speculation that the steelmaker is seeking to sell a 40 percent stake in its construction arm to improve its financial health.
Speaking during the business forum, Al-Rabiah said the trade volume between the two nations exceeded SR170 billion last year with Saudi exports to that country totaling about SR133 billion. “Korean investments in the Kingdom total SR3.4 billion, mostly in industrial and service sector projects,” said SAGIA chief Al-Othman.
Saudi Arabia is South Korea’s fourth-largest trading partner. The two countries have forged closer ties in many sectors. Park visited Masmak Fort before wrapping up her two-day visit to Riyadh. She left for Abu Dhabi on Wednesday evening.

Eni issues fraud complaint over suspect Iraqi shipment

Updated 18 July 2019

Eni issues fraud complaint over suspect Iraqi shipment

  • Italian oil multinational asks if rejected tanker cargo contained Iranian crude targeted by US sanctions

LONDON: Eni has filed a fraud complaint against its former head of oil trading over a suspect Iraqi crude oil shipment, amid concerns inside the Italian oil major that the failed delivery may have included Iranian crude targeted by US sanctions.

In the filing to the Milan prosecutor’s office, Eni accused its former head of trading and operations, Alessandro Des Dorides, of misleading all parties to the deal and hiding the role of a small Italian oil trading firm, Napag.

Two other senior employees were either demoted or suspended as a result of the failed shipment, sources said.

Eni said it had suspended dealings with Napag in February over a separate investigation by Milan prosecutors into suspected obstruction of justice by members of Eni’s former legal team.

Eni said that it fired Des Dorides at the end of May, after he had been in his job about six months, for what it said was an unrelated petrochemical deal with Napag in 2018.

Napag did not respond to an emailed request for comment or answer phone calls.

Des Dorides did not respond to several requests for comment from Reuters via email or LinkedIn. Reuters could not locate legal representation for him.

Eni also declined to comment. Eni said it “does not comment on ongoing investigations and internal due processes.”

The crude arrived aboard the White Moon tanker at the end of May for offloading at the Milazzo refinery in Sicily, which is part-owned by Eni. The Italian oil major, which produces oil in Iraq and is a regular buyer of Iraqi crude, was solely responsible for the cargo.

However, Eni said it rejected the delivery because it did not match the Iraqi Basra Light crude it expected from its counterparty, the Dubai-based trading arm of Nigerian firm Oando.

After sitting offshore for three weeks, the White Moon sailed back to the Gulf. The tanker manager did not respond to a request for comment.

Two sources at Eni said the White Moon’s 1 million barrel cargo created panic within the company over fears the crude could be, at least partially, Iranian.

Handling Iranian oil would have breached sanctions the US reimposed or extended last year after quitting a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Washington aims to reduce Iran’s exports to zero and force the Islamic Republic to renegotiate that nuclear deal, curb its missile program and modify its behavior in the Middle East.

Iran has called on other parties to the accord to shield it from the effects of US sanctions and has sought to circumvent US restrictions by selling more of its oil undercover.

Following the rejection of the White Moon shipment in June, the head of the Italian Senate Industry Committee wrote to Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi to clarify the origin of an oil cargo labelled as coming from Iraq, the head of the committee said.

The head of the committee declined to comment to Reuters on the oil’s possible origins.

Eni said it bought the crude from Nigerian firm Oando, who in turn bought the oil from the London branch of Italy’s Napag.

Oando said it took back the cargo from Eni, but declined to comment further on the origins of the cargo as it was “in the middle of a resolution” over the rejected oil. Oando said the terms of the deal were “normal for the trading industry.”

Italian prosecutors cannot legally comment on any investigation unless there is an exceptional circumstance.

Trading sources familiar with the deal said the offer terms for the crude should have raised alarms internally even before its arrival off Sicily. The offer was at a significant discount to typical Iraqi trades, was paid for in euros and was from a firm that is new to the region, they said. Physical oil is commonly traded in dollars.

Eni said that the mismatch in the crude’s chemical composition “coupled with other red flags led to the decision to terminate the transaction.”

The oil loaded onto the White Moon came via two ship-to-ship transfers that makes the origin harder to track, sources said.

The crude bought from Oando was loaded onto the White Moon from another vessel, the New Prosperity, but that vessel itself had been loaded with oil from a third tanker, the Abyss.

The Abyss makes regular voyages through the Mideast Gulf with its transponder switched off for days at a time, according to Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking. The transponder was switched off between April 24 and May 3 when it transferred oil to the New Prosperity.