The Cairo Criminal Court overturned prison sentences which had been issued against the Mubarak-era Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy and other petroleum officials on Saturday, clearing them of any criminal charges pertaining to the massive losses incurred in the course of Egypt’s natural gas exports to Israel.
Fahmy had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2012 on charges of misappropriation and squandering public funds. The court had also ruled that he should be dismissed from all his professional duties. Mubarak’s associate, the fugitive business tycoon Hussein Salem, had also been sentenced to 15 years in absentia on the same charges. Three of their co-defendants had also been issued prison sentences ranging from three years to 15 years imprisonment.
According to state-owned media outlets and news agencies, Saturday’s court-ordered acquittals did not include Hussein Salem.
Fahmy had served as Mubarak’s petroleum minister from 1999 to 2011. He was also a member of Mubarak’s then-ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), as well as a member of the NDP’s policy secretariat.
During his tenure as petroleum minister, Fahmy had overseen the sale and export of natural gas to Israel since 2005. The sale of its natural gas to Israel for well below its market value meant that Egypt was incurring hefty losses, along with dwindling national supplies, in the course of this gas export deal.
While the exact extent of losses through this deal are not known, it is estimated that Egypt accumulated several hundred million dollars worth of losses in the six years that it exported its gas to Israel, and perhaps several billions more in light of other sub-market priced deals with Spain and Jordan.
Following dwindling national supplies, and repeated attacks on its natural gas pipeline to Israel, Egypt halted its gas exports to Israel in 2012.
With its subsequent chronic shortage of natural gas supplies, Egypt has recently been considering and discussing the import of natural gas from Algeria, Russia, Cyprus, and potentially even Israel.