After 5-year delay, oil corruption trial begins in Algeria
Charges include influence peddling, inflating contract prices, money laundering and generally skimming off millions of dollars in bribes.
Al-Arab Online  [Published On: 15/03/2015]
Sensitive case
ALGIERS - Five years after its discovery, the trial began Sunday for one of Algeria's most notorious corruption scandals involving the state-run oil company that generates most of the country's revenue.

In a packed courthouse that included the ambassadors of Italy, the U.S. and Germany, prosecutors read out the charges against former head of Sonatrach Mohammed Meziane, his two sons, and 16 other company officials.

Charges include influence peddling, inflating contract prices, money laundering and generally skimming off millions of dollars in bribes.

The scandal was revealed in 2009 after an investigation by Algeria's feared intelligence service, the Department of Intelligence and Security, and involved contracts with Italy's Saipem and Germany's Contel Funkwerk.

Founded soon after independence from France in 1962, Sonatrach has managed much of the country's wealth and has always had close ties with those in power.

The scandal was seen as part of a score-settling between the intelligence agency and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had close ties to the accused.

The sensitivity of the case also explains the long delays in the charges going to trial.

The scandal came to be known as Sonatrach 1 after investigators in 2010 revealed a second set of charges, this time targeting the then energy minister Chakib Khelil, also a close associate of the president.

That scandal has yet to come to trial in Algeria, but Italian prosecutors have already filed charges against Italian companies involved in the case, accused of paying out more than $200 million in bribes to Algerian officials.

Former officials with Sonatrach have said the company is used as a source of funds by those in power, and a former company executive has estimated that the country loses between $3 and $6 billion annually to corruption in the oil sector alone.

Algeria's economy, which relies almost entirely on oil and gas exports, has been shaken by the low oil prices in recent months.

Search
More in the news
Terrorists target Egypt police in deadly attack near Giza pyramids
Abadi to Iran: Your help is welcome but you must respect Iraq sovereignty
Egypt joins China-based infrastructure bank
Saudi Arabia executes second Indonesian woman
Paris jihadist attacks fuel sixfold rise in Islamophobic acts
Saudi Arabia in new move to cut Kuwait neutral zone oil output
France sees progress in Rafale jet talks with UAE
UN Yemen envoy quits as Saudi-led air war enters fourth week
New round of Iran nuclear talks April 22-23 in Vienna
Yemen urges renegade army units to drop support for Huthis
Entrenched jihadists put full reconquest of Anbar out of reach
Iran holds Obama ‘accountable’ for application of treaties
Support for freedom of speech falls across Middle East
Bombing kills two military cadets in Egypt
Arab coalition considers large-scale drill in preparation for ‘ground assault
Libya calls for Russia support over arms embargo
Turkey vows to ignore any EU genocide resolution
Sudan extends nationwide elections by one day after low turnout
Syria rebels in south reject all forms of cooperation with Qaeda affiliate
Egypt court backs deportation of gay man to ‘safeguard morality’
Obama sees 'serious progress' in fight against ‘Islamic State’
Iran vows 'irreversible steps' on nuclear programme
UN imposes arms embargo on Huthi rebels in Yemen
Jordan raises safety concerns over construction of Israeli airport near Aqaba
Fabius says work remains to be done before final Iran nuclear deal
...
>>