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Energy giant Sonatrach hit by corruption scandal

State-owned energy giant Sonatrach’s chief executive, Mohamed Meziane, is under a judicial probe along with a company vice president and four executives. According to the press, the executives are suspected of corruption.

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AFP - Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil on Sunday said the chief executive of state-owned energy giant Sonatrach has been placed under a judicial probe but did not give the allegations against him.

"The chief executive of Sonatrach, the vice president in charge of marketing and four top executives of the company are being investigated by a judge," Khelil told a press conference. The company's chief is Mohamed Meziane.

"I cannot tell you the nature of the allegations because I know no more about the case than what has been written in the press," he said.

He also said that vice-president Abdelhafid Feghouli had been appointed interim head of the oil and gas group and that the investigation has not affected Sonatrach's production.

"There are capable people within this national corporation and 170 projects, some of them worth billions of dollars, are in operation," Khelil said.

On Thursday Algerian newspapers reported that an examining magistrate had ordered Meziane along with a company vice president and five executives to appear before him concerning allegations of corruption in company tenders for consultancy and security contracts.

Two other Sonatrach vice presidents, the former president of a bank and his son, as well as two children of Meziane and a private businessman have already been detained as part of the probe, El Watan newspaper said.

Meziane was appointed in September 2003 to head Algeria's biggest firm which employs 125,000 people and made 9.2 billion dollars (6.3 billion euros) profit in 2008 for an annual turnover of 80.8 billion dollars, according to its last financial report.

The company accounts for 98 percent of the north African country's foreign exchange earnings.

Numerous foreign companies operate in Algeria in partnership with Sonatrach, including Total and GDF (France), Repsol (Spain), Rosneft (Russia), ENI (Italy), BP (Britain), Statoil Hydro (Norway), Anadarko (US) and CNPC (China).
  

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