A witness in the case regarding the export of gas to Israel for under-market prices has said that former Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy was primarily responsible for setting the prices, and that he had the power to modify or reverse decisions made by the General Petroleum Authority, which had originally made the deal.
Fahmy, along with five other former ministry officials and fugitive business tycoon Hussein Salem, have been charged by the attorney general with squandering public funds and profiting from the export deal by selling gas at below-market rates.
The witness, Mohsen Ismail, is a member of the committee that was mandated by the public prosecution to examine gas export contracts between Egypt and Israel.
“The committee concluded that the negotiations were marred by low prices,” Ismail said. “Also, the selling was by direct order, in violation of the rules and regulations governing the sale of petroleum products.”
He estimated the loss in public funds resulting from the deal at about US$715 million as of January 2011.
The court decided to adjourn until Tuesday to take the testimonies of other witnesses.
Egypt's 20-year gas deal with Israel, signed during the Mubarak era, is unpopular with some Egyptians, with critics accusing Israel of not paying enough for the fuel.
The pipeline that provides Israel with gas has come under attack at least 13 times since Mubarak was toppled in February 2011. Previous explosions have occasionally forced weeks-long shutdowns along the pipeline run by Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS.