Egyptian ex-minister jailed over gas sales | News | DW | 28.06.2012
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Egyptian ex-minister jailed over gas sales

Egypt's former Mubarak-era oil minister Sameh Fahmi has been jailed for 15 years for selling under-priced natural gas to Israel. The Cairo court also imposed 15 years in absentia on an Egypt gas trader who fled to Spain.

A judicial source in Cairo said five other former high-ranking officials of Egypt's oil and gas authority were handed jail terms ranging from three to ten years as well as fines totaling more than 330 million euros ($400 million). They were convicted by Cairo's criminal court for allegedly damaging Egypt's interests.

In April, Egypt's new rulers cancelled a deal to make gas exports to Israel, which began in 2008, but have said they are ready to negotiate a new arrangement.

The sale of gas to Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat in 1979, has long been controversial in Egypt. Sadat was assassinated in 1981, before Mubarak took over.

Flames shoot at nighttime from the pipeline at Al-Arish in the northern Sinai, Egypt, in November 2011.

Frequently under attack - Egypt's pipeline to Israel and Jordan

Within Egypt, Bedouin militants have set fire to sections of the gas pipeline, which also serves Jordan, at least 14 times since Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising early last year.

Israel drew 40 percent of its gas and Jordan 80 percent of its supplies through the pipeline.

Ex-minister Fahmi was arrested in April last year when street protests led to probes into alleged corruption among Mubarak allies.

Fugitive shareholder fled to Spain

The fugitive sentenced is Hussein Salem, a major shareholder in an Israeli-Egyptian consortium, the East Mediterranean Gas (EMG). He fled to Spain as the uprising unfolded last year. Salem reportedly has a Spanish passport as well.

Former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who is hospitalized and has been in an on-and-off coma for several days, had previously been acquitted on a gas-related change.

On June 2, the veteran ex-president was handed a life sentence over his involvement in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ousted him from power.

ipj/sej (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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