BEIRUT: MP Ghazi Youssef leveled corruption allegations against Telecoms Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, reiterating that he had embezzled more than $60 million by failing to put the $85 million 3G expansion contract to tender.
“The minister himself admitted that the unit cost was $50,000. Therefore expanding the touch network through the new 300 [satellite] stations should not have cost more than $15 million,” the Beirut MP said in a news conference at Parliament.
“Let the minister explain to the public the use of the remaining funds. Does the cost of licensing and software alone amount to $70 million? Of course not,” he added.
He said licensing fees were usually paid per-user, putting the figure at no more than $5 for every additional network subscriber.
“Even if touch bought a license for 1 million users, which I doubt, the cost should not exceed $5 million,” he said.
Accusing the Telecoms Ministry of favoritism in awarding the contract, the MP said no effort had been made to draw offers from other international suppliers of telecoms equipment.
Huwaei, the China-based multinational provider of networking and telecommunications equipment that won the contract, issued a statement denying any misconduct. “Huwaei is an international company working in all countries and we commit to all international and local standards,” it said.
“All our contracts in Lebanon are fully transparent and there are no suspicions about them,” the statement said.
“We view Lebanon as a strategic market and our approach is long term,” it added.
Sehnaoui has denied Youssef’s allegations, asserting that he saved the Treasury over $53 million in the same deal.
In March 2011, Huwaei deployed touch’s 3G network in Lebanon.