Algeria issues arrest warrant against ex-minister

    By IANS,

    Algiers: Algeria Monday issued an arrest warrant against a former energy minister over corruption charges related to state-owned energy giant Sonatrach, media reports said.

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    International arrest warrants have been ordered for Chakib Khelil, his wife and two sons, as well as Farid Bedjaoui, nephew of the country’s former foreign minister Mohamed Bedjaoui, Xinhua reported citing Attorney General Belkacem Zeghmati.

    Some media reports suggested that Khelil, who held the energy portfolio from 1999 to 2010 and chaired Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) between 2001 and 2008, is currently outside Algeria, most likely in the US.

    Zeghmati said international arrest warrants have been issued against nine of the 22 suspects involved in the scandal involving Sonatrach, which works in partnership with several foreign companies including Total, GDF (France) and ENI (Italy).

    “Only three countries, namely France, Italy and Switzerland have shown willingness to cooperate with the Algerian judiciary in the case,” he added.

    The Algerian judicial authorities launched a probe into the corruption allegations involving Sonatrach and Italy’s Eni SpA when Italian and Canadian media reported that Saipem, a subsidiary of Eni SpA, and SNC Lavalin (Canada) paid millions of dollars as bribe to Farid Bedjaoui for a one-billion-dollar contract with the national energy corporation.

    In July, Algeria’s Minister of Justice Mohamed Charfi said the Sonatrach case probe revealed existence of an international corruption network, and that “about 90 percent of the people involved in this corruption case have been identified”.