The Documentary Podcast
What the sediment revealed in Lebanon
Thursday, 16 July
The discovery of a mysterious delivery of defective, sediment-heavy fuel intended to generate electricity in Lebanon has sparked a huge scandal in the country. More than two dozen people, including senior officials, have been charged with various alleged crimes including bribery, fraud, money-laundering and forging documents. Lebanon has already been in uproar since last autumn, with hundreds of thousands of people involved in street protests demanding the overthrow of the entire political elite – and now the country’s suffering its worst economic crisis in decades. The national currency has collapsed and more than a third of the workforce is unemployed. Electricity shortages – long a problem in Lebanon - have become still more acute, with whole towns plunged into darkness for long periods – and the row over the suspect oil delivery has exacerbated the problem. Now the investigation into the tainted fuel has raised questions about the original deal to import heavy fuel oil – and Lebanese hope it will eventually help explain why they’ve suffered black-outs for so long. Did officials try to cover up the presence of sediment in the shipment? How did the original much-criticised 2005 fuel contract come about? And what do the revelations tell us about the shadowy world of oil trading that the world relies on? Reporters Tim Whewell and Mohamad Chreyteh investigate.
(Image: Zouk power station, Lebanon – where the tainted fuel shipment was first discovered. Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images)