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Oil Scandal Hearings to Begin Monday

A Cabinet-appointed committee of inquiry into an alleged scandal in the operation of oil fields in the occupied Sinai will open hearings Monday. Attorney General Meir Shamgar, the first witness, will testify on behalf of the government. The hearings are expected to last as long as two months during which time the three-member panel will visit the oil fields at Abu Rodeis on the shores of the Red Sea. The committee was established on the basis of charges of gross mismanagement and theft against Mordechai Friedman, director of the government-owned Netivel Neft Co. David Niv, an oil geologist who made the charges to the Ministry of Development last May, will be among the first witnesses to testify.

A spokesman for Netivel Neft complained today that the firm’s reputation has been damaged by stories of the alleged scandal appearing in newspapers in Israel and abroad. As a result of the publication of charges of mismanagement, none of which are proven, a foreign company that has been marketing the Sinai oil for Israel abroad may refuse to renew its contract, the spokesman said. The foreign company was not named.