Lebanon officials accused the Algerian state-owned company of selling “petroleum waste” and followed their claim with a wave of arrests.
Rotterdam – Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has launched an investigation into the state energy firm Sonatrach following Lebanese accusations. Lebanese officials alleged Sonatrach sold defective oil to the state-owned Electricite du Lebanon (EDL).
Despite the Algerian president’s launching the investigation and the Lebanese side arresting Sonatrach employees and representatives, the company continues to deny the allegations. Mounir Sakhri, director of communications at Sonatrach, shifted the responsibility for the alleged defective oil to independent expert officers at the loading port in a May 13 interview with El Watan.
The same day, Mohand Oussaid Belaid, Algerian presidential spokesperson, claimed the scandal is a “Lebanese-Lebanese issue” and denied the Algerian state would get involved.
Lebanese MP Paula Yacoubian claimed the scandal is “documented by various reports” during a parliamentary press conference. Yet, she added, some parties “are beginning work to bury it.”
EDL informed Lebanese courts that Sonatrach delivered “defective” fuel in two shipments in April. Arrests followed the allegation, affecting employees of Lebanese inspection company Petrol Survey and Technics, the director-general of EDL, the director general of the oil installations department, and the director-general of oil-related affairs at the Ministry of Energy and Water.
Accusations of bribery, corruption, professional misconduct, and negligence of duty backed the arrests. The wave of repercussions went further to accuse the director of Central Laboratories in Lebanon of falsifying reports, and authorities summoned two former energy ministers for testimony.
Since its creation in 1963, Sonatrach has been involved in many corruption scandals, as the Panama Papers revealed. The company also served the government to finance many welfare programs.
Algeria has the second-biggest oil reserve in Africa and relies heavily on the foreign exchange reserves it earns from oil and gas exports.