Transparency International Demands Government to Investigate SAMIR

Rabat – The Moroccan branch of Transparency International (TM) has demanded that the government start a criminal investigation into the operations of the SAMIR oil refinery, which halted production last year due to “financial constraints,” according to the human rights organizations press release on Friday.“The experts appointed by the court are reporting errors that legally constitute criminal offenses and repeated deflections from administrative controls and internal supervision, including statutory auditors, stock exchange authorities and tax authorities,” the statement said. “While the poor financial health of the company was declared, it was able to continue without any accountability regarding its specifications and postpone several years in taxes and worsen its bank debt up to justify its liquidation.”The organization further recommended that the government set up “a vigilant committee” to ease the damages caused by the closure and liquidation of the refinery and conduct a financial and administrative investigation into the company’s spending. The facility – located near Casablanca in Mohammedia – produced 200,000 barrels per day before production stopped.Morocco’s tax administration froze the company’s bank accounts in March and seized the company’s assets in pursuit of a MAD 13 billion tax claim. According to the Moroccan government, SAMIR owes approximately MAD 44 billion to a series of banks and creditors.Earlier last month, the company said it expected to report deep losses in 2015 due to the production halt and the frozen state of its financial assets. The company source also clarified that the refinery’s 1,200 workers are still receiving salaries and benefits.Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi – known to be a close associate of the royal family of Saudi Arabia – owns Corral Holdings, which gained a 67.26 percent share of SAMIR in 1997.Talks between Al Amoudi and the government failed to find a solution after the halt in oil production last August, leading the businessman to leave the country.Jamaal Baamer, the company’s general manager, said during a hearing on March 7th that, if allowed by the court, the company had the ability to become functional again. He said that Al-Amoudi had agreed to contribute MAD 4 billion during 2016 to help the refinery restart production.SAMIR’s closure would make Morocco increasingly reliant on imports. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that the kingdom’s petroleum consumption is just under 300,000 barrels per day, making it Africa’s fifth highest energy consumer.

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