The defence team of Egypt’s ex-oil minister Sameh Fahmy has told a Cairo court that Hosni Mubarak was the sole architect of the deal providing cut-price gas exports to Israel, reports the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.
Fahmy, who served as the ousted president's oil minister from 1999 to 2011, is standing trial alongside six other officials on charges of squandering public funds related to the sale of natural gas to Israel.
Fahmy's lawyers told Cairo's criminal court on Sunday that the deal was Mubarak's initiative and there is no evidence proving their client's direct connection.
Egypt agreed to provide Israel with natural gas in 2005, in a deal built on the two countries' landmark 1979 peace accords. The prosecution claims the agreement caused Egypt's losses of over $714 million.
Fahmy’s lawyers also told the court that the deal was related to state sovereignty, meaning the oil minister had no power in the decision-making process and was only responsible for its implementation.
The gas deal was under consideration 9 years before Fahmi was appointed minister, they said, adding that the dispute over gas prices belongs in a civil, not criminal, court.
Egypt last week unilaterally terminated the gas export contract with Israel. Officials cited a commercial dispute but other Egyptian commentators suggested the cancellation of the deeply unpopular deal was politically motivated.