Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Algeria: Sonatrach executives jailed

A court in Oran has confirmed the prison sentences imposed on former Sonatrach president director general Mohamed Meziane and four other defendants last May (see Algeria Focus May 2011, page 9). Both the defence and the prosecution announced their intentions to appeal to the supreme court, the former continuing to insist on the men's innocence, the latter still hoping for a harsher penalty.

One media report described Meziane's “visible disappointment”. It said that, as he left the court, “with a gesture of his hand he showed that he could not find the words to react to the verdict”. According to Le Soir d'Algerie , the verdict surprised the five defendants. “We were expecting to be acquitted, it isn't just,” said one of them. A defence lawyer explained what had happened, saying that “it was easier to reconfirm the verdicts than to overturn them. We truly thought that they would all be acquitted.” Meziane was sentenced to two years, one suspended, and a AD500,000 fine. The former downstream vice-president Abdelhafid Feghouli , who temporarily took over as PDG after Meziane, received one year, of which eight months was suspended, and a AD200,000 fine.

Others with similar convictions were Benamar Touati , the former PDG of Sonatrach subsidiary Société de Conditionnement et de Commercialisation des Gaz industriels (Cogiz); Mekki Henni , former head of Sonatrach Aval 's studies and development department; and Nechnech Tidjini , head of the Algeria-French consultancy Safir . All have served their minimum terms and are therefore now at liberty. The trial concerned a contract awarded via the gré-à-gré system through Sonatrach Aval to Safir to build a nitrogen storage and conditioning centre.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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