Lights Out on Turkish Power Ship
By: Mouhamad Wehbe
Published Monday, June 17, 2013
When the Fatmagul Sultan, an electricity-generating barge stationed off the Lebanese coast, stopped producing electricity on April 22, its Turkish owner, the Karadeniz company, maintained that reason behind the stoppage was low-quality fuel.
Over a month later – and still no electricity – the company has the gall to demand millions of dollars of back pay from the Lebanese state for this downtime.
According to sources in the Lebanese Audit Bureau, a special tribunal with jurisdiction over Lebanese public funds, judges Ramzi Nohra and Lina Hayek, as well as supervisors Dia Nour and Mariam Hajjar, will be conducting an investigation of the Karadeniz case.
But will the bureau uncover the whole story behind the fraudulent power ships, or will its political patrons selectively reveal (and conceal) certain facts from the public? Despite its difficulties, the bureau’s mission might not be impossible. Sources indicated that the bureau received a political carte blanche for its investigations.
Karadeniz company representatives told the investigating team that it refuses to be held responsible for the fuel issue. The bureau then embarrassed the representatives by showing them the meeting minutes that document their agreement to the specified fuel. Karadeniz said the signature was to facilitate the lab results.
Company sources told Al-Akhbar that the mistake regarding the fuel standards "is not the responsibility of the company, according to the contract agreement. Therefore, the state will have to pay the full contracted amount for the downtime period." The total owed: $8 million.
Sources close to Lebanese energy minister Gebran Bassil will not confirm or deny this information. "The energy ministry is not of this understanding nor is the Turkish company. The ministry will not pay anything for the downtime period," they said.
The intentions of Karadeniz are clear so far. They became obvious on Friday morning, when the Audit Bureau's investigating committee went to the Zouk Energy Plant, where the Fatmagul Sultan is docked, only to be refused by the company.
This angered Judge Nohra, who said, "We informed them of our arrival days ahead."
Some of the committee's members recall the same scenario happening with one of the company’s power ships in Pakistan. It is now being repeated in Lebanon.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.