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The brother of Senegal’s President
Macky Sall has resigned from his government post after allegations of fraud
relating to natural gas contracts, he said on Monday.
Aliou Sall, brother of Senegalese
President Macky Sall, speaks during a news conference in Dakar, Senegal June 3,
2019. REUTERS/Christophe Van Der Perre
An investigation by the British
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) this month alleged that a company run by Aliou
Sall received a secret payment of $250,000 in 2014 from Frank Timis, a
businessman whose company, Timis Corporation, that year secured licenses to two
major offshore gas blocks.
The affair has dominated the
airwaves in Senegal, overshadowing the beginning of President Sall’s second
term. Protesters have taken to the streets of the capital Dakar in recent weeks
and the country’s top prosecutor has launched an investigation.
It also has international
implications: London-based BP in 2017 agreed to pay Timis Corp $250 million for
a stake in the licenses, plus about $10 billion in royalty payments over the
coming decades, the BBC said.
BP says the royalty payments are
nowhere close to $10 billion and that it carried out ample due diligence before
signing the deal. Timis has denied wrongdoing.
Aliou Sall, who is mayor of a Dakar
suburb, said he was resigning from his position in a body linked to the
national treasury, but denied that he received a payment from Timis. In a
statement he said the allegations were part of a campaign to “dehumanize” him
and make him “public enemy number one”.
Senegal’s offshore blocks hold some
of the largest untapped reserves of natural gas in the world and are set to
propel economic growth from early next decade.
But they have caused controversy
ever since they were first awarded in January 2012 to a company called
Petro-Tim that had no experience in the energy industry and only a few thousand
dollars to its name, according to company records seen by Reuters.
An investigation in May 2012 by the
state auditor found that the deal should be annulled because the petroleum code
states that all companies given licenses must have a proven track record.
Petro-Tim was formally established only after it won the deal, the company
records show, and was unknown in the industry.
Macky Sall approved the deal anyway.
Later that year, Aliou Sall was given a job running Petro-Tim’s Senegal arm,
prompting outrage in Senegal. The blocks were sold to Timis Corp in 2014 before
Kosmos Energy and BP bought in.