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Dozens Charged including Officials over Tainted Fuel

Jul 12

Dozens Charged including Officials over Tainted Fuel

A Lebanese investigative judge charged dozens of people including officials Friday over a delivery of counterfeit fuel intended for the electricity sector, a judicial source and 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.

A prosecutor in April ordered shut the offices of ZR Energy, which acted as intermediary to bring the fuel into Lebanon.

On Friday, an investigative judge issued a raft of charges against around 30 people before their expected trial, a judicial source and the official National News Agency said.

Sixteen of those individuals are already detained, the judicial source said.

They faced charges ranging from 'fraud', 'bribery' and 'forging official documents' to 'squandering public funds', it added.

Those indicted included Sarkis Hlaiss, chief of oil installations at the ministry of energy and water and oil director Aurore Feghaly, as well as employees and technicians at the ministry and oil installations, NNA and the source said.

Sonatrach representative in Lebanon Tarek Fawal, as well as ZR Energy director Teddy Rahme and general manager Ibrahim al-Zouk were also charged, the source added.

Lebanon's loss-making electricity sector is plagued by power cuts, and has long been upheld as an example of waste in the public sector.

The small country is in the grips of its worst economic crisis in decades.

It has since October been rocked by massive then smaller protests demanding the overhaul of the entire political class, who protesters accuse of being inept and corrupt.