15-Year Sentence for Giving Israel a Good Deal

A Cairo court gave five men who sold gas to Israel 'below market rates' a 15 year sentence; Israel says it paid a fair price.

Gabe Kahn ,

Gas supplies (illustrative)
Gas supplies (illustrative)

A criminal court in Egypt today jailed a former Mubarak-era cabinet minister and a businessman for 15 years each for selling Israel natural gas "below market value."

"The Cairo criminal court sentenced former oil minister Sameh Fahmi and fugitive businessman Hussein Salem to 15 years in prison each over the (Israel) gas deal," a judicial source told AFP.

Salem, is a former partner in the East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG), an Israeli-Egyptian consortium.

The men were accused "of exporting gas to Israel at below market value" undermining the interests of Egypt, the source added.

Israeli officials have said the paid competitive market rates for natural gas from Egypt under the deal, when viewed in relation to global markets.

Nonetheless, five former high ranking officials from the oil and gas authority received jail sentences ranging from three to 10 years on similar charges, the judicial source added.

The trials came as a result of a sweeping probe into corruption launched by the interim military junta which took over power in Egypt after veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak was ousted by massive streets protests in February 2011.

Several Mubarak ministers and cronies were arrested on charges of corruption after the former leader was forced to quit, and he too was arrested and jailed.

On June 2, a Cairo court handed down a life sentence against Mubarak over his involvement in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ousted him from power.

In April, Egypt's new rulers cancelled the controversial 15-year deal to export gas to Israel which was signed in 2005, but said they would be ready to negotiate a new agreement.

Egypt supplies roughly 40 per cent of Israel's gas supplies.

The sale of gas to Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, has always been controversial in the Arab world's most populous country.

Bedouin militants have bombed the gas pipeline – which also supplies Jordan – in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula at least 14 times since the uprising that toppled Mubarak.