Financial Prosecutor Sues Sukleen on Charges of 'Squandering Public Funds'

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Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim has filed a lawsuit against the Sukleen and Sukomi firms on charges of “squandering public funds” in their handling of waste management in the country in the past two decades, media reports said on Wednesday.

Ibrahim's move is based on the lawsuit that has been filed by Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel, the reports said.

Gemayel filed a lawsuit against the Council for Development and Reconstruction last week for its long running failure to follow up on the trash management file since Sukleen and its subsidiary Sukomi were tasked with collecting, sorting and land-filling garbage in Beirut and Mount Lebanon in 1994.

After talks he held with Prosecutor Samir Hammoud at the Justice Palace, Gemayel said: “The CDR is the body eligible to follow up on the work of the companies that are tasked with handling Lebanon's waste but it failed to do so and no one held it responsible for that.”

Stressing that Sukleen should have been inquired about its procedures of handling and sorting the waste, Gemayel lashed out saying: “For many years, Sukleen has been responsible for removing the trash and has failed in its work. Instead of land-filling 20% of the garbage, it was land-filling 80% in Naameh, which brought us to this disaster today.”

Reports have emerged that Sukleen has failed to abide by the conditions that were set in the contract with regard to the amounts of trash that should have been sorted, recycled and land-filled.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sukleen issued a statement clarifying that it had been “campaigning, without success, since 1997 to have the Government provide (it) with more land, as per the contracts, to build additional composting and sorting plants.”

“For this purpose, and during our years of operation, 323 letters have been sent to the concerned authorities. These letters are documented in our registers and in the registers of the authorities who have received them,” the firm added.

Lebanon's most recent trash management crisis erupted in July 2015 after the closure of the Naameh landfill that receives the trash of the capital and Mount Lebanon. Several efforts to contain the situation including suggestions to establish landfills in different Lebanese regions have failed.

The crisis, which sparked unprecedented protests against the entire political class, has seen streets, forests and riverbanks overflowing with waste and the air filled with the smell of rotting and burning garbage.

Health experts have warned against the prolongation of the crisis and environmentalists have urged the government to devise a comprehensive waste management solution that would include more recycling and composting to reduce the amount of trash going into landfills.

In December, the government decided to send the trash abroad amid failure to find sites for landfills but the export plan hit a dead end last month after reports revealed that Britain’s Chinook Urban Mining company had fabricated permits aimed at exporting the garbage to Russia.

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