Lebanon charges 12 people including officials over tainted fuel

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A Lebanese prosecutor on Wednesday pressed charges against 12 people including government officials over a delivery of suspect fuel through an Algerian oil company, state media said.

The “tainted fuel” case made headlines in March when Lebanon refused to receive a fuel shipment from a subsidiary of Algerian state company Sonatrach to be used in Lebanon’s electricity sector.

The delivery was found to be “non-compliant” with Lebanese standards, contrary to official reports.

Mount Lebanon Prosecutor Ghada Aoun on Wednesday charged 12 people over the case, the National News Agency reported.

They included the general manager of the Lebanese Electricity Company Kamal Hayek, for negligence of duty.

The Ministry of Energy and Water’s chief of oil installations, Sarkis Hlaiss, and director of oil, Aurore Feghaly were charged for bribes and negligence of duty, it said.

Aoun last month ordered shut the offices of ZR Energy, which acted as intermediary to bring it into Lebanon.

Arrest warrants have already been issued for Feghaly and the Sonatrach representative Tarek Fawal, as well as for laboratory workers alleged to have tested fuel samples and provided false reports.

More arrest warrants were issued in absentia for Hlaiss as well as ZR Energy head Teddy Rahme, general manager Ibrahim al-Zouk and another of the company’s employees.

On May 6, the judiciary questioned former energy ministers Nada Boustani, member of the president’s Free Patriotic Movement, and Hezbollah’s Mohammad Fneich.

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In statement by its Lebanese subsidiary, Sonatrach said the media had targeted it with a “malicious and systematic campaign” of defamation.

The company, which said it had been providing fuel to the Lebanese electricity sector since 2005, said it was “not responsible... for any violation, crime, offense or any alleged transgression that could have occurred to any fuel shipment.”

In Algeria, meanwhile, a presidential spokesman said an investigation had been ordered into the matter, but that “Algeria as a state was not involved in such acts.”

He said it was first and foremost a Lebanese case.